What is Onycholysis?

Felicia Dye

The tips of the fingers are composed of nail plates and nail beds. The nail plate, or fingernail, is the hard material that covers the top of the finger. The nail bed is the portion of skin in which it lays and covers. Onycholysis is a condition characterized by the separation of the fingernail from its nail bed. This condition can also occur with the toenails and their nail beds.

If the toenail separates from the nail bed, it's called onycholysis.
If the toenail separates from the nail bed, it's called onycholysis.

There are several conditions in which similar symptoms could occur. There are two important characteristics, however, that can signal that the detachment is caused by onycholysis. First, the separation of the nail and the nail bed will occur gradually. Second, there is no pain during the separation or afterward.

Discolored nails may occur as a result of onycholysis.
Discolored nails may occur as a result of onycholysis.

Both males and females can have onycholysis, although it is more common in females. The condition is mostly found in adults. It is not, however, restricted to any particular age group.

Fungal infections are common causes of onycholysis.
Fungal infections are common causes of onycholysis.

One of the most common causes of onycholysis is fungal infections. The condition is often seen in women with long fingernails, as a result of the trauma that occurs when the nails hit things. It can also be caused by repeatedly performing tasks that involve submerging the hands in liquid without using gloves. There are other potential causes that range from common to rare.

This condition can also be a signal of more serious conditions. These include skin disease, iron deficiency and hyperactive thyroid. This is often signaled when most or all of the nails are affected.

This is not a condition that usually goes undetected for long. The separation of the nail from the skin is generally obvious. Furthermore, the nail often becomes discolored. It can turn white, yellow or green. The color is often an indication of the type of infection present.

Treatment of onycholysis is fairly simple, but it is also slow. Nail separation is permanent. There is no way to make a fingernail or toenail reconnect with the skin. It is, therefore, necessary to wait for a new, properly growing fingernail or toenail to take its place.

The detached portions of the nails are usually clipped off. When the condition is caused by an infection, it is necessary to cure it before proper growth can occur. This may involve taking antibiotics or other medications. Sometimes, even once a new nail has grown, the condition can be evidenced by permanent marks or deformation.

Onycholysis may signal a hyperactive thyroid.
Onycholysis may signal a hyperactive thyroid.

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