Is it Toenail Fungus or a Damaged Nail Bed?

It’s not always as easy to detect whether you have toenail fungus or a damaged nail bed. To complicate matters further, an injury to the nail bed can sometimes be caused by a fungus, especially in more severe cases.

Is your toenail lifting up? That could eventually be due to a fungus. But, it can also be the direct result of other medical conditions and toenail injuries, so it’s crucial to know how to tell the difference.

In this guide, we will look closely at toenail fungus and distinguish it from a nail bed injury. We will also provide advice on how to treat each condition, as well as how to prevent it happening again in the future!

When Toenail Fungus Causes Damage to the Nail Bed

Nail fungus—also called Onychomycosis or Tinea Unguium—is very common.

The main symptoms in the early stages include:

If you treat the infection early on, you won’t experience any problems other than mild irritation.

Other later symptoms specified by the Mayo Clinic include:

  • Further discoloration
  • Edges of the nail start to crumble
  • Unpleasant odor
  • Nail breaks and chips
  • Upper nail peels off
  • Black nail bed

The longer the infection goes untreated, the worse it will get. In severe cases, it can cause onycholysis, which is where the separation from nail bed causes the nail itself to come away completely.

As a result, you might lose a part of the nail or the whole nail.

Do I Have Toenail Trauma or Fungus?

While toenail fungus can lead to the separation of the toenail, there are also other reasons for the nail to come away.

In fact, you might see some discoloration in your toenail and think that it is due to a fungal infection. But it could be something different entirely—usually an injury.

One of the most common reasons for such symptoms is trauma to the nail. So, which is it?

The obvious solution is to pay a visit to your podiatrist to find out. However, you might not need to. You might be able to tell on your own, and there are various signs you can look out for at home.

Do I Have Toenail Trauma or Injury?

In cases of toenail trauma, an injury to the nail can:

  • Cause a sharp pain when any pressure is applied
  • Lead to color changes
  • Cause the nail to crack or appear scraped

Have you ever stubbed your toe on a door, chair or table leg? You will undoubtedly know about it if you have done.

Or you might have dropped something heavy on your toe. Perhaps you injured your nail while at work or playing sports?

Why Does the Toenail become Discolored and Get Thicker?

This is your body’s attempt to make it better. Just like a bruise on your skin, the body is healing your nail. It may not look particularly pleasant, but your body is gradually repairing the damage that’s been done.

You will often know if you hurt your toe in a painful accident, but you can experience trauma in other ways too. You might wear unsuitable shoes or go hiking for long periods of time, and your toes might knock into the sides.

Your toenail might thicken to protect itself, which is something that also happens when people wear steel plates. The big toe hits the steel plates and causes repeated damage, finally resulting in severe trauma.

When Do I Have Toenail Fungus?

If you notice the signs of what could be fungus—and you have not suffered any trauma recently—it could be a fungal infection.

  • Have you visited any public places like a swimming pool, spa or sauna recently? More to the point, did you walk around barefoot?
  • Alternatively, does a family member have a fungal infection? This is a risk factor too. Foot fungus is highly contagious and can quickly be passed from one person to another.
  • Can you identify toenail fungus by brown or black spots on your nail? White streaks and yellow streaks are also classic signs.
  • Over time, you might observe changes to your nail. If so, it could be a fungus. The nails become hard and brittle as well, although this might be a sign of aging for people in their 40’s.
  • If it hurts in the early stages, it’s more likely to be trauma. Nail fungus can cause pain, but usually after many months.

Different Conditions that Affects the Toenails

There are other conditions that are mistaken for nail fungus:

  • Melanoma
  • Psoriasis
  • Ingrown nails

Finally, you might have both. This is because an injury can increase the chances of getting infected. Just like with broken skin, bacteria can penetrate the broken nail.

What May Happen if the Nail Bed Is Damaged?

A damaged nail bed can be unpleasant, especially if it leads to the separation. This is true whether it is caused by toenail fungus, trauma or an alternative medical condition. It can be painful and affect your quality of life.

The toenail bed might be only slightly damaged, which could be the case in the early stages of a fungal infection. At this time, the toenail might still be firmly attached to its bed.

But, if you do not treat the toenail fungus, it could get worse. It could lead to a black nail bed. It could reach the point where the toenail completely detaches from the bed, or it might partially detach.

Can You Fix a Damaged Nail Bed?

If your nail has become detached due to damage, then you will want to get it fixed. When your nail bed is damaged, this can also be painful. Sometimes, it can prevent you from walking properly.

While you can certainly fix a damaged nail bed, the treatment depends on the cause of the problem. For an injury, the treatment also depends on the severity of the problem.

If the injury is not too severe, your doctor might recommend that you allow it to heal naturally. Serious injuries might require surgery.

Depending on the extent of the damage, a new nail might grow back. In cases where the nail falls off or has to be removed, it cannot be reattached.

Damage to the nail bed or the nail matrix might require surgery. If some of the nail remains attached to the bed, it might grow back normally. But you will usually have to get the part of the nail that is not attached removed.

Do Toenails Grow Back After Fungus?

Let’s say that you have been affected by a fungal infection and it has become severe. As a result, you have lost your toenail because the toenail became detached from the toe.

This is usually the most serious stage of an infection but it is certainly not unheard of for people who do not lose their toenails.

The first thing to do is ensure your toenail is appropriately treated. The fungal infection should be killed entirely before you start thinking about the new nail. Once this is the case, you will be ready to start thinking about what you can do with your toenail.

One thing to remember is that there are a lot of urban myths about toe fungus. Some people claim that once you have got a fungal infection, your toenail will never grow back. This is not true, at least not in a general sense.

Many people experience toenail fungus without losing a nail. Providing you treat the condition early enough you will be okay.

  • Fact: All you need is a treatment that inhibits the growth of the fungus and kills active fungal spores. Once the infected nail grows out, you are left with a normal and healthy toenail. We find that the Purely Northwest Toenail Fungus System is an excellent choice.

It can, however, take time for a nail to grow out – typically up to 18 months, although can be sooner if you deal with the issue early enough.

The new nail will start to grow from the cuticle – the at the bottom of your toenail where the skin and the nail meet.

As the nail grows, you might need to keep treating it around the cuticle to prevent this new nail from getting infected too. Also, trim the infected area of the old nail.

One of the biggest mistakes is to assume that you can stop treating your fungus when a new nail starts growing. Never assume the fungus is dead. Stopping your treatment could see the healthy new nail become infected.

It can be frustrating to continue treating it, but it is essential. If you don’t, you might have to start all over again.

What Is Nail Bed Repair?

If you have a serious case of toenail fungus or an injury to your nail, your nail bed might become damaged.

Toenail lifting from nail bed? This can happen with trauma or when the fungus is not treated, and the nail detaches from the nail bed.

Whether you can repair this or not depends on the amount of harm. Fortunately, it is normally something that can be repaired.

The nail bed is the skin underneath the nail. The nail itself is called the nail plate, and this grows on top of the nail bed.

It comprises a dermis and an epidermis, which are two different types of tissue. It has a matrix which produces a large number of nail plate cells.

If you look at any of your nails, you might be able to see a light crescent shape at the base of your nail. This is part of the matrix.

damaged toenail falling off

If your nail bed is damaged, for example, if you have a black nail bed, you will normally want to see a doctor to find out about how it can be repaired. They will want to know how the damage occurred.

If you get your finger caught in a door, you might suffer from bleeding underneath the nail. This is called a subungual hematoma, and it can be excruciating. It can also cause damage to the nail bed.

The doctor might have to let the blood drain. They sometimes do this using a needle under anesthetic. Or they might have to remove the nail entirely.

If you have toenail fungus, the damage might be light or severe. Some of the nail may need to be removed as a result, or even all of the nail.

If the nail is still capable of growing, usually all you have to do is look after the area and keep it clean then wait for the new nail to grow.

If the nail cannot grow back, you might have to use a false nail. These can be attached to your finger in place of a real nail and look just like the real ones.

What Can I Do to Repair My Damaged Nails?

Often, leaving the nail to repair on its own is the best option. A new nail will grow over time, and this will replace the old nail.

But sometimes it is not that easy.

You may have damaged the nail roots. If this is the case, this will prevent the nail from growing out. The nail plate growing from the root might be deformed, or it might not stay attached properly.

will my toenail grow back after fungus?

You might be able to improve the appearance of your nail in some cases. A specialist might be able to shape the nail to make it look normal.

In the most severe cases, permanent damage occurs. If this happens to you, you might need something more drastic.

Once your fungus has been eliminated, you might need to see a specialist. They can apply cosmetic resin and remodel the nail. This will help it to look normal, and it is an effective treatment.

You might want to get a prosthetic toenail. This is essentially a fake nail that is attached to your toe. It is indistinguishable from a real nail.

You will also want to look after it carefully. If there is still damage, the risk of infection is greater.

Medical Treatments for a Toenail Lifting from Nail Bed

If you have toenail fungus, this is likely to be the reason for your toenail bed damage.

But it could also be a result of:

  • A lack of minerals and vitamins in your diet.
  • Thyroid disease
  • A yeast infection
  • Psoriasis

Once you know exactly why your nail is detaching from your nail bed, you can start to treat it properly.

One of the things you should do is keep your nails short. Clip them back regularly, but not too much. Leave your old nail in place while the new one grows.

If your onycholysis is as a result of psoriasis, you will need treatment for this to stop it from occurring. Sometimes, a vitamin D treatment can help, as well as corticosteroids.

If it’s a thyroid condition, you might need medication. You might even need to take a supplement to treat a lack of vitamins and minerals.

Don’t try to get rid of the old nail or use any treatment underneath the nail. It could end up making things worse.

The best thing to do is wait. Keep a close eye on your nail and trim the old nail as you let the new nail grow back. This will help to repair the nail bed naturally.

How to Prevent Toenail Separation

As with most things in life, prevention is always better than the cure. Even if you are very careful, you can still pick up a fungal infection.

Toenail fungus is quite common, but it is also relatively simple to treat. As with all things, it is easier to treat a fungus in the early stages. Look back at the classic symptoms of black dots, discoloration, and crumbling nails.

Treating it might involve nothing more than applying a topical cream. This will help to heal your fungus and prevent the worst damage from occurring. If you do not treat it in the early stages, the damage can become more severe. This is when your toenail might detach.

Aside from fungal infections, you can prevent nail problems in other ways. Be careful when around doors, using tools, and using machinery. Nail trauma is one of the most common ways to suffer from the detachment of the nail.

Cut your nails regularly with your own clippers for thick toenails. Don’t borrow or use someone else’s pair. Keep them reasonably short, but not so short that they hurt. Shorter nails are less likely to get damaged.

Keep your nails stronger by avoiding getting them wet regularly. As they get wet and then dry again, they can expand and shrink. Over time, this can make them more brittle and more likely to break and become damaged.

One last thing, taking care of your nails helps to prevent fungal infections. And remember, always treat your nails as soon as you become aware of a problem. Keeping them in good health also reduces the chances of more severe damage occurring.