Will my fingernails re-attach to the nail-bed?
January 26, 2010 2:55 AM   Subscribe

Can fingernails re-attach to the nail-bed?

I bit my nails severely for years - a long way past the tip of my fingers. Now that I've stopped, and my nails are growing, a large part of them is not attached the nail-bed. Will they re-attach?
posted by jedro to Health & Fitness (11 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
I almost completely ripped the nail off my big toe two years ago in a taxi (don't ask). The old nail eventually fell off when the remaining nail bed began growing. Now I have a full nail, but only attached at the bottom quarter of the bed.

So, I don't think so. Once the matrix that the nail attaches to is damaged, it won't support regrowth.
posted by michswiss at 3:39 AM on January 26, 2010

I stopped biting my nails a number of years ago (after a rather bad habit of 25 years).

The finger ends are still a little deformed, and the nails are not normal ... The quick (white bit) starts noticeably lower down on the nail, and has not changed noticeably in years of not biting.

posted by jannw at 3:46 AM on January 26, 2010

I never bit my nails, but I noticed that the quick seemed to extend a bit further when I began painting my nails with nail strengthener. Not by much, mind you - the quick wasn't that far 'down' to begin with on any finger - but a noticeable amount, because I now have to cut my fingernails more often and shorter than I like (after many years of childhood piano playing, long nails annoy the crap out of me).

posted by Xany at 5:14 AM on January 26, 2010

My experience is, yes. But it will take a loooong time. I'm talking like, 5-10 years per millimeter.

When I was in 2nd grade (7-8 years old), my thumb was smashed between two rocks at the beach and the thumbnail pulled completely off. Eventually it grew back, but didn't really adhere to the whole nail bed and looked really wonky (especially compared to the other thumb). I'm 26 now and the thumb has definitely returned to almost-normal, but I can remember even 5 years ago the damaged thumb looked noticeably different than the undamaged thumb, with an uneven and too-short nail bed.

Of course, it's completely possible that my age and the brief period of trauma (compared to the sustained trauma of nail-biting) contributed to the healing of the nail bed.
posted by muddgirl at 5:36 AM on January 26, 2010

I've lost the occasional toe nail to running. When that happens there's a blister under the nail and and nail bed completely separates from the nail. (And then tge toe nail gets black and eventually falls off - classy!)

When the new nail grows in, it will reattach to the nail bed. I takes time - several months at least, but when new nails grow in they are attached.

Congrats on quitting biting - it's hard to quit!
posted by 26.2 at 7:13 AM on January 26, 2010

Just to give a different experience, I completely ripped off the nail of my big toe playing soccer a few years ago. As the new nail grew in, it adhered appropriately to the toe (though it was rather weird and bumpy). Now it has looked completely normal for some time. I don't know if perhaps losing the nail entirely was better in that regard?
posted by kosmonaut at 7:43 AM on January 26, 2010

The medical term for this condition: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Onycholysis

I would ask a doctor this question.
posted by dfriedman at 7:57 AM on January 26, 2010

More anecdata: I stopped biting my nails six years ago and the tips have not yet reattached. It drives me nuts because even when I keep them healthily short, dirt and other gunk gets trapped between the nail and the nail bed constantly.
posted by miagaille at 9:15 AM on January 26, 2010

I lost the nail of my big toe once due to trauma. It just fell off. The nail grew back fine, emerging from the base attached to the bed. So for you... maybe? I'm just pointing out that all the "No" answers are not necessarily true.
posted by chairface at 10:26 AM on January 26, 2010

My experience is the same as 26.2s, with the new nail growing in underneath the messed up one over three or four months until the top is gone and it's normal again. But my boyfriend has been mashing his toes playing soccer for 30 years and some of his nails no longer attach regardless of how much time they get. I also know someone who had nail attachment issues which went away when she was treated for tinea, there was a low grade infection in the nail bed stopping it from growing properly. No other symptoms, just didn't grow back properly after she damaged it somehow. And another person who has messed up nails that don't attach due to psoriasis, which is apparently indistinguishable from the tinea just doesn't respond to treatment (unlikely in your case since you have a cause for the whole thing).

So I think it depends on the level of damage you've done under there. Low grade infections can get in when you're biting really badly or scar tissue could build up. Or it could all grow back out again nicely given time. Personally I'd give it some time, maybe six months, then if they're still not right take a quick visit to the Dr to make sure it's not something treatable.
posted by shelleycat at 2:04 PM on January 26, 2010

More anecdata: I stopped biting my nails six years ago and the tips have not yet reattached. It drives me nuts because even when I keep them healthily short, dirt and other gunk gets trapped between the nail and the nail bed constantly.

Oh my god, thank you, miagaille. I bit my nails as a kid, and although I grew out of it in my late teens, I have always had major issues with dirt - no matter how clean I start out, there's dirt under them within an hour. I was reading this thread cringing at the mental images, but when I read this I realized that must be what I'm dealing with. Thank you so much.
posted by etoile at 7:42 PM on January 27, 2010

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