Nail Ailments

Health Conditions That Stop Toenails from Growing

Ignoring problems with our feet and nails can cause problems. We don’t often pay much attention until something happens. If your toenails are no longer growing, it’s important to find out why and take action.

People’s nails can grow at different speeds. It depends on many factors. Everything from genetics to lifestyle choices can determine how quickly your toenails grow.

If your toenails seem to be growing at a slower pace than usual, it’s normal to have cause for concern. Your nails are a window into your general health. If a toenail isn’t growing properly, it could be a sign of a medical problem that doesn’t have anything to do with your nails.

Is it possible for your nails to stop growing? That depends on what might be causing the problem. The best thing you can do is pay attention. Once you learn what might be causing the abnormal growth, you can take action to resolve the problem.

Why Won’t My Toenails Grow?

This guide will cover a few reasons why your toenails aren’t growing. It’s important to note that it’s quite rare for toenails to stop growing completely. It’s more likely that growth has slowed down. Sometimes, it slows down so much that it may seem like there is no growth. This can still be a problem, but it doesn’t mean the nails have ceased to grow.

What to Look For

It’s rare that your nails will stop growing on their own without any other warning signs. Even if your nail growth starts to slow, there are other symptoms to be aware of.

Some common symptoms associated with slow nail growth include:

  • Brittleness
  • Discoloration
  • Inflammation
  • Swelling
  • Redness

Depending on the cause of your slow nail growth, your nail might even split or need to be removed. This doesn’t mean it won’t eventually grow back. But, you have to be patient with toenail growth. Again, it can take nearly twice as long for a toenail to grow as a fingernail. It can be difficult to watch that growth since it moves so slowly. But, in most cases, nails will grow back and be fine once the right treatments have been used.

You can even take precautionary steps to help with nail growth. We’ll cover a few of those tips later. Being able to do the right things for general nail health will help your toenails feel stronger, and you’ll have a better chance of fighting off infections.

Toenail Not Growing After Injury

Injury or trauma to the nail is probably the most common reason it grows slowly or ‘stops’ growing. Keep in mind that if you damage a toenail, it can take up to 18 months for it to fully grow back. Toenails and fingernails are different, and toenails don’t grow nearly as fast. So, don’t get concerned if you’re constantly clipping your fingernails and rarely have to trim your toenails.

Trauma to the nail comes in many forms. It can be sudden, like dropping something heavy on your feet. Or, it can be consistent. This includes something like repeated pressure to the toe. Runners often experience this kind of trauma. If running shoes are too tight, the toenail can get jammed against the inside of the shoe with every step.

Constant trauma to the toenails or sudden injury can cause the nail to fall off. The best thing to do in this situation is to ‘wait it out.’ Give yourself a month or two to track the growth. If you see any growth start to happen, you can be reasonably confident the nail will grow back.

If the nail still hasn’t grown back after a few months, the nail matrix could be damaged. Many times with an injury to the nail, you’ll see other signs. Sometimes, a blood blister may occur. You should wait for these other signs to completely heal up before assuming the nail isn’t growing back the way it should. It may take longer than you’d expect. If the nail is genuinely damaged, though, it’s important to know the parts and how each function for growth.

What is the Nail Matrix?

Toenails consist of three different parts:

  • Nail plate – This is what we call the toenail. It’s a protective hard shell on the toe itself. It’s made up of keratin.
  • Nail matrix – The soft tissue underneath the nail plate, protected by the plate itself.
  • Nail bed – The nail bed consists of living skin underneath the nail plate. It, along with the matrix, handles the growth of toenails. Both components use old cells to create a keratin buildup. These cells protect your toe by creating a hard outer shell.

Toenails grow because the nail matrix and nail bed are continually shedding cells. These dead cells then harden, forming the nail plate. New cells push the plate forward, which is what makes our toenails give the appearance of growth. When one component of the toenail isn’t functioning correctly for whatever reason, the nail may not appear to grow properly.

If the nail plate is damaged, the nail can still grow. If the matrix or nail bed have been damaged, growth may appear slower.

Toenail Not Growing Due to Wear and Tear

If you’ve ever had a dog, you may have noticed that their nails don’t frequently need to be cut. This is because they naturally get worn down by walking on different terrain. Believe it or not, the same thing can happen to people.

If you haven’t damaged your nail due to trauma and it hasn’t fallen off but doesn’t appear to be growing, you could be wearing the nail down. This usually happens to people who walk barefoot often. Certain terrains can make this even clearer. For example, if you walk barefoot on sand frequently, the abrasive texture of the sand itself could cause your nails to get filed down. It may seem like no growth is happening from the tip.

As long as your nails are healthy and no damage has been done to them, this ‘condition’ is nothing to worry about. Keep your nails protected and strong, and your daily walking habits shouldn’t create too much of a problem.

If you’re worried about your nails not growing fast enough, don’t walk barefoot in rough terrain as often. But, keep in mind that walking barefoot isn’t necessarily a bad thing. It gives your feet a chance to air our, which can prevent fungus from occurring.

Fungal Infection and Nail Growth

One of the biggest health problems that can affect nail growth is a fungal infection. Toenail fungus can cause a lot of issues for your feet and nails. It’s always best to catch it early, if possible.

Some signs of toenail fungus include:

  • Foul odor from the nail
  • Discoloration
  • Brittle nails
  • Hard nails

One of the earliest symptoms might be a black dot or yellowing in the middle of the nail. By knowing the symptoms, you can pay attention to your nails sooner and treat a fungal infection as soon as you notice it.

Toenail fungus can cause a couple of different problems for nail growth. First, it can cause your nails to become brittle and crumbly. If your nails start to chip or crumble away, it can give the appearance that they aren’t growing anymore. Keeping your toenails clean and trimmed, especially when you have a fungal infection, is essential for this reason.

If a toenail fungus is ignored for too long, it can continue to grow. A fungus has to be treated to go away. It won’t clear up on its own. If it keeps growing and spreading, it could eventually separate the nail from the nail bed. An antifungal treatment is needed to get rid of toenail fungus. It’s best to catch a fungal infection as early as possible to avoid it spreading so much.

trauma stopped toenails from growing properly

Slow Growth from an Ingrown Toenail

If your toenail doesn’t seem to be growing normally, you could be experiencing an ingrown toenail. These can be extremely painful. They occur when the toenail starts to grow sideways into your skin instead of straight. Often, they come with several other symptoms, including inflammation.

If an ingrown toenail occurs, it may slow down the normal growth of your toenail. Unfortunately, it can make every single step feel painful.

Ingrown toenails can be painful enough on their own, but if they break the skin, they can cause even bigger problems. If an ingrown toenail does break the skin around your toes, you could be at risk for an infection. An infection around your toes could also lead to slow nail growth and will need to be treated separately.

Most of the time, if you have an ingrown toenail, you’ll be able to see it. The growth of the nail needs to be corrected for it to go away. You can do things like soaking your feet to help with swelling and soften your nails to make them easier to work with. Placing a small piece of cotton underneath the nail can redirect growth in the right way.

In some severe cases of ingrown toenails, surgery may be required. This usually happens when the nail is left untreated for too long. It’s nearly impossible to ignore an ingrown toenail. So, don’t let yourself live with the pain for too long.

Drug Side Effects

In some cases, prescription drugs or even over-the-counter drugs can cause negative side effects. One of those side effects includes damage to the root of the nail. If some damage occurs, they nail matrix won’t be able to use dead cells to create the nail plate. When cells aren’t packed together, and the nail plate doesn’t continue to form, the nail won’t grow.

This problem can also occur as a result of some diseases. It all depends on how your body processes certain illnesses or medications. But, these options are usually considered a last resort on why toenails aren’t growing. It’s much more likely that the nail growth is just slow.

When Should I See a Doctor?

It’s rare that you’ll have to see a doctor for nail growth. Be patient and give yourself time. After a few months, you’re likely to notice that your nails have grown, at least a little. If they truly haven’t grown within several months, consider seeing a podiatrist.

A podiatrist will likely run tests to determine what might be disrupting nail formation. Most of the time, they will be able to tell if you have a fungal or bacterial infection. Thankfully, there are treatment options for both of these infections.

If you start to see other negative symptoms on or around your nails, you should see a podiatrist sooner. Some things to look out for include swelling, inflammation, and discoloration. None of these symptoms are considered ‘normal,’ and shouldn’t be ignored. They could be the result of something more serious or an underlying health problem.

Toenails won't grow due to a medical condition

How to Grow Toenails Faster

It’s important to understand what might be slowing or stopping the growth of your toenails. Injury to the nail may need time for the nail bed to heal. If you have a fungal or bacterial infection, the right kind of treatment and medication is required. There are home remedies for toenail fungus, but if you let it go too long, you may need to see a podiatrist.

If you’re looking for general ways to encourage healthy nail growth, there are a few to consider. Most of them are simple lifestyle choices. Stimulating toenail growth is relatively easy with a few changes to your daily habits.

Let’s look at some of the changes you can make in your day-to-day routine that is beneficial to the growth of your toenails:

  1. Eat a balanced diet. Include vitamin and mineral-rich foods. Try to also include foods with a decent amount of protein, as its one of the building blocks of nails.
  2. Massage your nails with coconut oil. It helps to build up cuticles and contains nutrients that will strengthen your nails. It will also add moisture and help your toenails from becoming brittle and cracking.
  3. Use olive oil to keep your nails moisturized. Olive oil can penetrate your nails when you massage it in. It also contains Vitamin E that can help to improve circulation and repair nails that have been damaged.
  4. Keep your nails trimmed and clean. You should always cut your toenails straight across instead of curved. By keeping your nails cut reasonably short, you’ll reduce your risk of a fungal infection where moisture can get trapped underneath. It also can help to keep them cleaner and free of debris.
  5. Keep your feet as dry as possible. The fungus occurs when moisture gets trapped underneath the nail. Wear shoes or sandals in public showers and pools, and wear the proper footwear to avoid letting your feet get too sweaty.
  6. If you’re an athlete or walk around a lot each day, make sure you’re wearing the right shoes. Repeated trauma to the nail can cause a lot of damage and affect growth. Most of the time, this is due to intense activity in shoes that don’t fit as they should. If you don’t want to buy new footwear, a shoe stretcher could provide the answer.

What to Do if My Toenails Aren’t Growing

The main reasons toenails stop growing are either due to infection, trauma, or poor nutrition. Thankfully, most of these health conditions are treatable. Some of them are even mostly preventable. While you can never prevent a toenail fungus altogether, there are ways to lower your risk. The same goes for injuries.

If you think one of the possible conditions listed in this guide relates to your nail growth, now you have a better idea how to treat it. The best thing you can do is give your nail time to heal and grow if it hasn’t been hit with an infection. It can take months for a nail to show noticeable growth.

If you do have an infection, treating it first before worrying about your nail growth is necessary. An infection that goes untreated will continue to grow and spread. It can lead to other problems with your nails, and even more health problems.

If you have waited for months and haven’t seen any signs of growing, contact a podiatrist for an official diagnosis.