Why is My Big Toenail Falling Off?

Posted by Dr. Brian Nagy on July 6, 2017

big toenail falling offWe tend to take our toenails for granted, until they cause a problem. Fungal infections, and injury can cause your toenail to fall off. As disturbing as it may be to realize your big toenail falling off, it is not entirely uncommon and is easily treated both before and after the big toenail falls off. A New Hampshire podiatrist at Nagy Footcare, we help our patients to preserve and protect their toenails so that they are able to lead healthy and active lives.

Our toenails help to protect our toes from heavy impacts and other injuries. However, toenails are prone to injury themselves and may fall off as a result. The technical medical term for toenail loss is onychoptosis, which translates to a separation of the toenail from the nailbed.

What causes toenails to fall off?

There are two primary causes for toenail loss, fungus, and injury. Toenail fungus, a fungal infection caused by dermatophytes, is the most common reason that a toenail will fall off. Dermatophytes feed on the keratin found in the skin and nails and thrive in warm, moist environments. The development of toenail fungus can make the nails very brittle which makes them more likely to crack or chip. The fungal growth can also grow between the nail and the nailbed leading to a separation of the toenail, leading to eventual loss.

Injury is the second most common cause of toenail loss. The injury itself may either be a traumatic event or occur from repetitive stress. For example, if you are a runner and your toes regularly push against the inside of your shoe, the constant pressure may lead to blistering of the skin under the nail, forcing the separation of the nail from the nail bed. More traumatic or acute injuries may lead to bleeding under the nail.

Are there warning signs before my toenail will fall off?

If you’ve injured your toenail, you will probably experience some pain. There may also be bleeding either under the nail or from the nail. You may notice discoloration and looseness of your toenail. If you are at risk of losing a toenail due to a fungal infection you will notice symptoms consistent with fungal toenail infections including:

  • Yellow, brown or white discoloration
  • Thickening of the nail
  • Discharge
  • Odor
  • And in some cases, swelling and pain

What should I do if my toenail is falling off?

First, don’t panic. Even if your toenail falls off, it will grow back within three to six months. However, getting treatment from your trusted podiatrist can help to protect your toe while your nail grows back and prevent further infection from developing. If you sustain an injury or notice symptoms of a fungal infection it is in your best interest to seek treatment before your nail becomes lose and detaches. Also, if you experience any pain, swelling, discharge or odor, make an appointment for treatment before your condition becomes worse.

Your podiatrist will provide treatment and medication to heal your nail and nail bed and clear it of infection. If necessary, your doctor may remove any loose parts of your nail to prevent it from tearing and causing more pain or infection.

Can I do anything to take care of a loose toenail at home?

You should make an appointment to get your toenail checked out by a professional New Hampshire podiatrist if you notice any symptoms linked with your big toenail falling off, other toenail loss or experience any pain. However, you can also protect your toe by keeping it clean and bandaging it with sterile gauze or bandages.

If you have lost a toenail, are suffering from a fungal toenail infection, or have noticed that you have a loose toenail make an appointment with the talented and compassionate doctors and staff at Nagy Footcare. Dr. Nagy and his team will help you to preserve your toenails and general foot and ankle health.

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Topics: Foot Problems, Toe Pain

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