What Are the Causes of Nail Separation from the Nail Bed?

Having a nail separate from the nail bed can be unsightly. The good news is that it’s normally fairly painless. Because it tends to happen gradually, the process itself shouldn’t cause too much discomfort in most circumstances. But, what are the causes of nail separation from the nail bed?

There are a few different common causes to consider. Unless the separation becomes painful for some reason, none of these causes should be a reason for concern. In this article, we’ll touch on several treatment and prevention options. That way, if you experience the symptoms, you’ll know how to take care of it yourself.

Preventative measures, of course, are the best ‘treatment.’ But, in order to know what those measures are, you have to first know what might cause the problem in the first place. Let’s take a look at some of the common reasons why people experience a nail separation from the bed.

Common Causes of Nail Separation from the Nail Bed

There are several different medical conditions associated with a separation of the nail from the nail bed. Each condition is slightly different. However, they are all easily treatable once ‘caught.’ Let’s dive in for a closer look at the medical reasons:


When you think of trauma to the nail, you might be thinking of something extreme and harsh. In reality, trauma to the nail bed can be something simple, and you may not even realize it at the time. Something as ‘harmless’ as stubbing your toe can cause big problems.

In other instances, tools can make the difference. If you’re used to getting pedicures, even the slightest bump or scratch under the nail bed can trigger a separation. That’s why you should never ‘dig’ at your nails with anything.

Toenail Fungus

Toenail fungus is typically caused when moisture gets trapped underneath the nail. Moisture is a key ingredient in separation. However, if the fungus itself is allowed to grow and spread, it can easily push the nail away from the bed. They work to thicken the actual tissue underneath the nail, causing it to push away from the nail bed and lift out.


Most people don’t think of psoriasis as a skin condition that affects the nails, but it absolutely can. Like a fungus, psoriasis can cause a thickening of the nail. It also causes a buildup of debris, which makes it easier for a fungal infection to occur.

Iron Deficiency

If you have an iron deficiency, you’ll probably experience many different symptoms. However, be aware of your nails as well. A lack of iron in your system can create brittle, hard nails. If you have other iron deficiency symptoms and notice your nail separating from the bed, be sure to seek out treatment from your doctor.

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What Are the Possible Symptoms?

Obviously, seeing a nail separate from the bed is a pretty big symptom on its own. But, there are other things you can be aware of as it starts to separate. These common symptoms include things like:

Most of these symptoms could actually equate to many of the different causes above. So, it’s important to recognize any additional symptoms you may have, in order to pinpoint what caused the problem in the first place. Think about where you’ve been, what you have exposed your nails too, etc. Trauma may be easy to remember, but medical conditions can sometimes be harder to figure out.

Again, these conditions aren’t necessarily urgent. But, if you’re truly unsure why your nail is separating itself from the nail bed, you should contact a podiatrist for clearer answers.

Treatment and Prevention Methods

Treatment is dependant on the problem causing it. If you have a skin condition like psoriasis, there are some oral medications that may improve the condition of your nails. An iron deficiency can be easily remedied through vitamins or certain prescriptions.

There are a number of different treatment options for toenail fungus. They range from over the counter topical treatments, medical solutions, and even home remedies. Antifungal creams are a great place to start, as you can use them directly on the toenails.

In some cases, the toenail may need to be removed. If your nail has split during its separation or appears to be loose or ‘hanging,’ contact your doctor about taking the next steps.

Nail Separation from the Nail Bed

You can also take certain precautionary measures to lower your risk of your nail separating from the bed. While there are no 100% guarantees, the following simple precautions can make a big difference:

  • Protect your feet: Try to avoid exposing your nails too much in public spaces. This is especially true in places where bacteria is exceptionally present, such as public pools, showers, etc. These are prime locations for moisture to become a problem for your toenails, too. Keep your nails as dry as you can, at all times.
  • Keep nails manicured: Keep your nails cut relatively short. The shorter they are, the less risk of something getting trapped underneath them. With that in mind, make sure the tools you’re using are clean, and be careful when using them, so you don’t cause any unnecessary trauma.
  • Try to avoid certain chemicals too often. Even the strong solution in nail polish remover can cause problems if used too often. Sometimes, beauty products that we use regularly can cause damage if they’re being used too much.

What Should I Expect?

In most cases, your nail will repair itself once the problem is treated. You shouldn’t expect this to be an ‘overnight fix.’ Nails tend to grow slowly. It could take up to six months before your nail returns to health, after fully treating the problem. But, once you know the causes of nail separation from the nail bed, it should be fairly easy to treat.