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Losing Toenails

By: Beth Morrisey MLIS - Updated: 20 Oct 2017 | comments*Discuss
Losing Toenails Nail Bed Feet Toes

Losing a toenail is not a pretty experience, nor is the result of a bare nail bed all that beautiful to look at. This situation can be particularly embarrassing in warmer weather when sandals are fashionable and activities such as sunbathing and swimming demand bare feet. Understanding the causes of toenail loss, the process of losing a toenail and what you can do with a bare nail bed can all help you better cope should you experience the loss of a toenail.

Causes of Toenail Loss: Infection

Losing a toenail can be the result of an infection. Usually these infections are fungal and may be accompanied by a discoloured nail, a thickening or breaking of the nail and general dryness of the nail. If caught in time infections can be treated and toenail loss averted. People who have weak immune systems, use shared showers and share socks and/or shoes with others are all at higher risk for contracting fungal infections of their feet and toenails.

Cause of Toenail Loss: Injury

Injury to the feet and toenails may come in many different forms, some of them consistent and repeated rather than one traumatic event. Once an injury is sustained it is hard to avoid losing the toenail. Injury may result from: sports, particularly long-distance running or walking; jumping, kicking or otherwise using your foot (and nails) to strike items; Ill-fitting shoes which cause your toenails to consistently rub materials such as leather; sustaining a blow, such as a heavy item falling on the foot (and nails); catching your toenail on something (fabric, corner, etc) and ripping it from the nail bed; stubbing your toe and causing injury to the nail, including splitting.

Process of Losing a Toenail

Many people swear that losing a toenail is actually less painful than the injury which caused it, or the associated symptoms (such as itching) of a fungal infection. Very often you will see a discolouration of the nail first, or possibly a blood blister forming under the nail following injury. Allow the natural process to occur or else you risk introducing an infection to the area. Do not:
  • Attempt to pop a blood blister under a toenail.
  • Try to pull a nail out of its nail bed.
  • Risk pulling apart a nail which has split.
  • Wear shoes without socks.
  • Forget to thoroughly cleanse your feet and toenails each day.
  • Avoid a GP or pharmacist if you believe you have a fungal problem.
  • Allow others to tend to your toenail unless they are medical professionals.

Coping with Bare Toenail Beds

Bare toenail beds tend to be unappealing to look at, but the good news is that once a toenail is lost another will begin growing in to take its place. While you are waiting, consider:
  • Following all medical instructions to continue treating fungal infections.
  • Wearing clean, dry socks and shoes each day.
  • Getting professionally fitted for shoes to make sure you leave your toes enough room.
  • Treating yourself to a professional pedicure once it is safe to do so.
  • Applying tea tree oil to your toes each evening as a preventative measure.
  • Wearing a plaster over exposed nail beds if wearing open-toed shoes.
  • Always wearing some sort of shoe in a shared shower or area such as indoor pool.

Losing a toenail can be embarrassing from an aesthetic point of view, but it should not be a terribly painful process. Understanding the causes of toenail loss, the process of losing a toenail and how best to cope with bare toenail beds should all help you deal with this situation should you need to.

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Yes I have lost both of my toenails on my left and right foot the big toes this occured by wearing Nike Shoes and working in a factory and not being told what kind of shoes to wear I was later told I should have wore steel toed shoes and was never told this I am going to sue Nike shoes plus the factory I worked at which is still in business. I am embarrassed by wearing certain shoes in public the toenails will not grow back they have chippwd away first it started with blood under both nails now it has turned out like this I would love to have 2 new toenails and they do hurt skin hard and peeling off on the top of the toes and on the sides I even get ingrown toenails.
Patty - 11-May-16 @ 11:02 PM
Can you put nail polish on a toe that the nail has come off? The new nail has started coming in now.
04GRANDS - 1-May-11 @ 1:42 PM
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