Dead toenail is not a minor problem as many patients think. It requires a proper approach and treatment to prevent severe complications as tissue inflammation, bacterial and fungal contamination as well as death of surrounding tissues and necrosis. But first, learn the basic facts about nails:
- dead nails are impossible to recover – thus, if you find information about dead nail recovery, you can pass it by as mankind is still unable to breathe in life into dead tissues;
- nails grow approximately by 4-7mm per month;
- toenails grow slower than fingernails – thus, if you lose a toenail, it will take up to 6-8 months to grow a new healthy one.
Why do nails die?
A nail is a dead layer formed with protein called keratin. It is already a dead tissues which protects sensitive parts of fingers and toes and prevents them from damages. That is why a term “dead nail” is incorrect. What we are talking about referring to as a “dead toenail” is a nail that is going to separate or is already separated and does not perform its function. Moreover a dead nail can cause inflammation and infection in the body leading to unwanted consequences as gangrene as a result of death of tissues.
There are lots of reasons why a nail can go dead. However the most common one is severe injury of a toe (for example, something heavy dropped on a toenail). Among other causes of dead nails there are:
- Blisters appearing on the skin of nail bed (under the toenail). The blister damages the skin and it dies causing the toenail to separate from the skin and to die as well. Blister commonly occur after injuries, however they may be a result of skin abnormalities, blood flow disorders, poor oxygen saturation of tissues, infections and inflammations.
- Nail fungal infection can also result in nail death. This commonly happens when fungal spores penetrate and develop under the nail plate. For this to happen a nail should be already damaged, it means a toe should have an entrance for an infection.
- Complications of diseases and treatments as cancer and chemo-therapy.
Dead toenail is impossible to recover, but it is possible to provide proper treatment to a nail bed and to stimulate faster growth of a new healthy nail.
How to understand if toenail is really dead?
Not every black spot on a toenail means its death. Most of the nails do not “die” after traumas however present the symptoms as black spots and pain. Take the next steps to diagnose that a toenail will not recover:
- a damaged or injured nail is loose – it means that it is not held properly in its nail bed. You can lift it a bit under nail bed. In such case a nail will not reattach and needs to be removed.
- feeling a pressure under the nail caused by accumulation of blood or pis
How to remove dead toenail?
We strongly recommend to see a doctor and get professional aid to get your dead nail removed as removing a dead nail at home it is hard to make everything sterile and correctly. As operating a non-sterile instruments you can infect an open wound on the nail bed and cause even more severe problems. Please, contact any online or pro medical hot line to find out how you should remove a damaged or injured nail. In this section we will tell you how to remove a damaged nail in 5 simple steps. Mind that you can remove only loose nail in such a way. Do not try to apply this method on toenails damaged with fugal infections.
- Palpate a blister
Press an injured nail with you fingers, you should feel a blister filled with blood under your nail. This is a spot which you will need to prick and drain.
- Drain the blister
We do not recommend applying pins or any sharp non-medical stuff, take a syringe needle. If you just open a syringe then a needle will be sterile and you do not need to heat it. But if the syringe was opened earlier, then soak a needle in alcohol and heat it before pricking a blister. Pricking will cause some pain, unfortunately you will need to prick the blister for several times till you are sure that the blood does not accumulate under the nail.
- Clip a really dead part
After draining the blood you will see which part of the nail is already ready to fall off. Take sterile scissors and clip this part of the nail. Do not touch the rest of the nail as it needs time to completely separate from under the cuticle.
- Wait and watch
This is the longest step as a remaining part of a nail can separate for a long time (for several days, as practice shows this period can last up to 5 days). During this period you need to apply antiseptic solutions and add antibacterial and antifungal topical treatment in order to avoid infectious complications.
- Pull of the remaining part of a nail
Try the remaining part of the nail by moving it left to right and see whether it yields to pressure. Then pull it off with one move. It will not hurt too much, but if you are very sensitive to pain then you can apply some topical anesthetic.