Losing a toenail is certainly never a fun experience, but it does happen to the best of us. It may happen as a result of a freak accident, a sports session gone wrong, or a work-related injury. In any case, the situation is never a fun one. If you’ve recently lost a toenail or are simply curious about the process, this article will cover how long it takes for a toenail to grow back once it’s been stunted or otherwise lost.
How Long Does It Take For A Toenail to Grow Back?
The bad news is that it takes a much longer time for toenails to grow back than fingernails. There isn’t a known reason for this, but even with special treatments like biotin supplements, your toenails will still take a longer time to grow back. One speculated explanation for this is that you use your fingers often. Since they experience so much movement, their blood flow is stronger. Toes, on the other hand, don’t get too much stimulation. Your feet move around, but you aren’t exactly twiddling around your toes.
But, generally speaking, the time it takes for a toenail to grow is between nine to twelve months. If you’re starting from absolute scratch, especially after a medical toenail removal, expect it to take even longer- up to eighteen months (a year and a half)!
How Nail Growth Works
Nails are, essentially, a layer of hard skin. They are made of keratin, which is a kind of protein that the body creates by using dead cells. If you’ve heard of keratin before, that’s probably because it’s also the primary component that hair is made of.
The nails start their growth underneath the skin at their root, an area known as the matrix. From there, new cells form. Once these new cells are complete, the old ones get booted out and turned into keratin. This substance then pushes through the skin, and voila! It’s time for a mani-pedi!
Taking Care Of Growing Toenails
While there’s no miracle cure to nail growth, there are steps that you can take and things that you can do to make the process of growing back a toenail easier.
- Try some supplements like biotin. This helps to boost the protein-building amino acids that help in the creation of nails and hair.
- Make sure to keep the wound clean. Nails are hard for a reason, and that reason is the skin they’re protecting is incredibly sensitive. Keep the site bandaged, and change those bandages on a regular basis.
- Try to reduce swelling as best as you can. Use something like a cold compress to try and stave off any inflammation.
- If a piece of your nail is detached but still lingering, try to trim off that excess. This makes the risk of it catching on to something and painfully tearing off (possibly leading to infection) much lower.
Signs of Unhealthy Vs. Healthy Toenails
There are some substantial, visible differences between toenails that are healthy and toenails that are experiencing some kind of issues. Let’s break down the key differences between these two types of nails.
- A consistently smooth surface that doesn’t have any significant ridges or pits.
- The color of healthy toenails is a light pinkish tone.
- The thickness of healthy toenails is uniform, not too thick, and not too thin.
- They should not be too flexible or soft, but they should still have a firmness to them
- You shouldn’t have any kind of pain or discomfort around your toenails.
- The cuticles, which protect nails from infection, are kept clean and neat.
- There is some kind of significant discoloration. If your toenails are yellow, white, or green, you might have a fungal infection or some other kind of underlying issue.
- Your nails should not be easily broken/crumbled. Brittle nails can occur for a number of reasons, including aging and prolonged exposure to water.
- There are small dents or pits in the nails, which can be a result of psoriasis.
- Extremely thick nails or incredibly thin nails.
- Cuticles that have become swollen, inflamed, and red.
- A bad smell comes from your toenails.
- There are dark streaks and spots underneath the toenail.
When To Seek Medical Care
Luckily, you don’t need to see a doctor the majority of the time after you lose a toenail. Though it might take a while for your toenail to come back, it’s normally able to do so without any complications. That being said, there are a few situations where seeking medical care might be necessary.
If you observe a lot of swelling or the presence of pus at the site of the lost nail, you should seek antibiotics, as you likely have an infection. If losing your toenail wasn’t the result of something foreseen or expected, then you should seek advice as to why this has happened. You could have an underlying condition like diabetes or a compromised immune system, which is why it’s so important to have it checked.
Lastly, if you have prolonged healing time in tandem with any level of pain, or you lose toenails multiple times in a row without experiencing any trauma, then you should seek out help. Remember that it’s always better to be safe than sorry and that, at the very least, the doctors can offer you peace of mind.
The photo featured at the top of this post is © Bunphot/iStock via Getty Images
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