Doctor's Notes on Torn or Detached Nail
A torn or detached nail refers to separation of a finger- or toenail from the underlying tissue bed. Medically, the separation of a nail from the nail bed is known as onycholysis. A number of different diseases and conditions can result in a detached nail, including certain infections of the nails and chronic conditions of the skin like psoriasis or eczema. Trauma or injury to the fingers or toes can also cause a torn or detached nail. Hyperthyroidism and lupus are chronic conditions affecting the whole body that can also cause nail separation.
There may not be other symptoms present along with a detached or torn nail. Sometimes the area of detachment turns white. Other possible associated symptoms depend on the exact cause and can include nail pitting, ridges on the nails, nail flaking or crumbling, or other types of discoloration or damage to the nail. Toenail or fingernail separation is generally painless.
Torn or Detached Nail Causes
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.
"By a man's fingernails...a man's calling is plainly revealed." So says Sir Arthur Conan Doyle in a Study in Scarlet, speaking as the famous detective Sherlock Holmes. Besides occupation, the nails may reveal one's habits, anxiety level, and certain health problems.
Kasper, D.L., et al., eds. Harrison's Principles of Internal Medicine, 19th Ed. United States: McGraw-Hill Education, 2015.