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August 15, 2007 9:00 PM   Subscribe


I injured my right big toe about a week ago, and I'm afraid the nail is coming off. I got a pedicure last night, and the when the polish was removed, my entire toenail was black. The nail bed itself is swollen and discolored, and the swelling is lifting the nail up.

As long as I wear open toed shoes, it doesn't hurt anymore, but it itches like it's healing.

Is there any way I keep the nail from falling off? Or is that even advisable? I'm kind of vain about my feet and this is really disgusting! How can I help the healing process go more quickly?
posted by Space Kitty to Health & Fitness (12 answers total)
You've already lost the nail, it just hasn't left yet. It's like a boyfriend. Let it go. Eventually you'll get a new toenail, but until then you'll have a naked nail-less toe.
posted by Floydd at 9:09 PM on August 15, 2007 [2 favorites]

I'm not a toe expert, but it's happened to me a couple times before (after stubbing my toe or whatever), but if it's already black, it's probably gonna come off. It may not be for a few months or so though - toenails grow pretty slowly, and there's probably already one coming in underneath the old one. Let it do its own thing, and when it's ready to come off, it will, and a new one will be well on its way to being a full-fledged nail underneath.
posted by AlisonM at 9:12 PM on August 15, 2007

The nail will eventually fall off. If the the swelling and pressure is bothering you the actual recommended treatment is to heat some thin metal (like a large pin or small nail) till it is glowing red and then use it to burn a hole through the center of your nail. A gout of disgusting fluid will come out. There is no health benefit to leaving the pressure there.
posted by MonkeySaltedNuts at 9:46 PM on August 15, 2007

My toenail came off about a year ago, after a twenty-mile hike. Honestly, I felt betrayed: nobody ever told me my toenail could come off! Who knows what other horrific things my body might do that nobody ever mentioned. (P.S. This is not an invitation for you to post lists of horrific things, it was a rhetorical point.)

The nail was gross as it came off (especially gross was when it was connected only at the base, so it was in like a little door), it was gross when it was missing (a nail-less toe is just weird), it was gross when it almost became ingrown. But...

After all that time, when it finally did grow back, it came back fresh and smooth. It's by far my best toenail now! Think of it as a far-off consolation prize.
posted by IvyMike at 1:12 AM on August 16, 2007 [2 favorites]

Even though it's gross, it will feel tons better when it comes off. The pressure is probably what's causing the pain. After Jim T. stepped on my toe the day we moved here, it took a week or two for the nail to fall off and then several months before the toenail was back to normal.

It sucks, but there you are. You have plenty of cute shoes that don't show yertoeS. I think there are press on toe nails which might make you feel better about how it looks.
posted by Kimberly at 1:45 AM on August 16, 2007

I smashed my index finger under a rock once and the same thing happened. It takes a while, but the nail should grow back entirely normal. If the red-hot hole-boring thing grosses you out you can ask a doctor to do it for you also.

The body does what it does, vanity or no. You could wrap it in gauze if it's too disgusting...
posted by laconic titan at 2:34 AM on August 16, 2007

Not to be alarmist, but my wife got a fungal infection after losing a toenail. It may be worthwhile to guard against the same happening to you by avoiding locker room showers, and shoes that keep your feet from breathing at least until your nail grows back. A prophylactic treatment of Ciclopirox solution may or may not be advised by your doctor. While fungal infections are unlikely, and don't seem to be all that dangerous, they warp and discolor nails, and bug the hell out of my wife from an aesthetic standpoint. I've heard some runners have their nail beds cauterized to prevent nail regrowth when it happens.

See also.
posted by BrotherCaine at 3:10 AM on August 16, 2007

A friend of mine got an acrylic nail done after her toenail fell off during sandal season. Whether this is a good idea, I don't know, but she still has all her toes.
posted by magicbus at 4:48 AM on August 16, 2007

Go to a podiatrist if you can. I'm a runner and have terrible toenail issues (you can try posting on have tons of advice on saving your nails). It takes a while, but the new nail does grow in.
posted by annabellee at 8:46 AM on August 16, 2007

Here's a Coolrunning post about toenails.
posted by annabellee at 8:47 AM on August 16, 2007

Thanks, everybody! There will be no home surgery for me, and with no health insurance a doctor visit is right out.

Guess I'll invest in some fun bandaids and learn to live with it for awhile.

posted by Space Kitty at 3:21 PM on August 16, 2007

I had some major ankle surgery a little while back. I too lost my toenail. It took exactly 1 year to the day of the surgery to grow back enough that I had to trim it.
posted by sanka at 3:50 PM on August 16, 2007

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