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Why do toenails fall off?

Monday, Apr 30, 2012
YourHealth, AsiaOne

My little toenail fell off completely in one single piece recently. I checked my toe for any signs of injury or infection, but it appeared fine - only that it is missing the toenail. There was no pain, blood or pus. Should I be concerned?

How long would it take for my toenail to grow back?

A: The fifth toenail is often subject to trauma due to its location. Mechanical pressure from the shoes or stubbing the toe against an object may not be recalled as the underlying cause. A thickened or callused area on the skin of the affected toe may well be a tell-tale sign of injury. The cumulative effects of repeated low-grade friction can lead to nail injury.

Nail injuries range from a reddish-black collection of blood under the nail (subungual haematoma), laceration (a cut), avulsion (loss of the nail), loss of the toe or finger together with the nail (amputation), which may involve a fracture.

You should consult your doctor for a thorough examination to determine the underlying cause and to ensure the underlying bone is not injured.

Fingernails grow on average two to three times faster than toenails. The last fifth toenail has the slowest growth of all the nails at about 1.34 mm a month. Fingernails require about 3 to 6 months to grow back completely; toenails about a year. Growth of nails is affected by factors such as age, gender, race, climate and disease status.

Answer provided by Dr Hazel Oon, Associate Consultant Dermatologist of National Skin Centre (NSC). For more information, visit http://www.nsc.gov.sg/

Have a health or medical question? Send it to a1health@sph.com.sg.

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