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Torn or Detached Nail

Torn or Detached Nail Facts

  • Fingernails and toenails, like hair, are composed of protein and fat and are not live tissue.
  • Nails grow a bit more than one-tenth of an inch per month and require three to six months to completely regrow. (Toenails grow more slowly than fingernails.)
  • Nails are produced by the nail matrix cells that reside in the moon shaped whitish area (lunula) at the base of the nail.
  • If the nail matrix is not damaged, the nail is typically capable of regrowth.
  • The nail protects the nail bed, the skin at the upper tip of the finger or toe.
  • A well-rounded diet and good general health help to produce strong nails.

What Are Causes and Risk Factors for a Torn or Detached Nail?

Since the nails are on the back of our fingertips and toes, they are prone to damage. Anyone who works or plays or runs or walks has injured a fingernail or toenail. Longer nails are more likely to become damaged because they can be levered off the nail bed or run into the end of an athletic shoe. Poorly fitting shoes are likely to injure nails through repeated trauma.

What Are Symptoms and Signs of a Torn or Detached Nail?

Torn or damaged nails are quite apparent on simple examination. After a traumatic event, a portion of the nail or even the entire nail is no longer adherent to the nail bed. This is most often associated with a minimal amount of bleeding and a moderate amount of pain.

When Should Someone Seek Help for a Torn or Detached Nail?

Once a nail has been torn or detached, there is little that can be done to replace or repair it. The major concern is damage to adjacent structures. If there seems to be significant damage to areas around the nail, then a visit to a physician may be necessary. If there are any signs of infection, swelling, increasing pain, or pus that develop a few days after the injury, then a visit to a physician is mandatory. Occasionally, after blunt trauma to a nail, there may be bleeding between the nail and the nail bed resulting in a subungual hematoma. This can produce a very painful problem that can be quickly relieved when a doctor drills a tiny hole in the nail plate to immediately relieve the pressure of the accumulated blood.

Medically Reviewed by a Doctor on 10/23/2015

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