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What Is Onychomadesis?

By Andy Josiah
Updated Mar 03, 2024
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Onychomadesis is a condition which involves the separation of the nail plate from the nail matrix. The separation eventually results in the shedding of the nail and a new nail grows.

Onychomadesis occurs when the nail matrix stops functioning temporarily. The nail matrix is essentially the tissue under the nail. It is the cellular layer that the nail rests on. The nail matrix may stop functioning for a variety of reasons, such as due to physical trauma, a systemic illness, an infection and even due to medications.

Onychomycosis, fungal infection of toenails or fingernails, is one of the conditions that may result in onychomadesis. Hand, foot and mouth disease (HFMD), a viral illness affecting infants and children, may also cause onychomadesis. HFMD is caused by enterovirus and its symptoms include fever, blister-like sores and rash. Certain systemic illesses like Guillain-Barre syndrome, Stevens Johnson syndrome and immunodeficiency are believed to be associated with onychomadesis. Medications such as those used for epilepsy and cancer may also result in onychomadesis.

Treatment for onychomadesis may include topical ointments containing urea or halcinonide. In some cases, doctors may remove a shedding nail to make it easier for the patient to use his or her hands or walk.

Onychomadesis is a temporary condition and a new nail will grow in place of the one that has shed. Therefore, those affected with the condition ought not panic or become distressed. However, if you suspect that you may have onychomadesis, see a doctor at the earliest for diagnosis. Even though the condition is a temporary one, it is important to identify the cause and receive timely treatment. In addition to benefiting from treatments for the condition itself, treating any underlying causes will also help prevent onychomadesis in the future.

The Health Board is dedicated to providing accurate and trustworthy information. We carefully select reputable sources and employ a rigorous fact-checking process to maintain the highest standards. To learn more about our commitment to accuracy, read our editorial process.

Discussion Comments

By bluedolphin — On Aug 14, 2012

@turquoise-- You probably didn't "get it." You probably already had the fungi but it wasn't causing an infection because your immune system was keeping it in check. If your immune system weakened, then the fungi might have gotten an opportunity to infect your nails. That's what my doctor told me when I had onychomadesis.

The reason that doctors leave the tablets as last resort is because they can be hard on the liver. The topical cream is less dangerous. But if it's not working for you, I highly recommend tea tree oil. I cured my onychomadesis with tea tree oil.

By turquoise — On Aug 13, 2012

@burcinc-- Sharing shoes is a bad idea! Especially if it's closed shoes, you have a high chance of getting it. If you're not seeing any whitening of your toe nail, then maybe you have not been infected. But be careful and only use your personal shoes and socks.

I've had a nail fungi problem for close to a year. I've never been given the oral tablets though. For some reason, my doctor thinks they are bad for me and insist that I use the topical cream. I have been using the cream but it's not treating it. I might have to go back to my doctor and beg him to give me some of the oral medication.

I'm also curious about the causes of onychomadesis. When mine showed up, it came out of nowhere. I hadn't gotten a pedicure at a salon or anything like that. I'm still baffled as to how I got it.

By burcinc — On Aug 12, 2012

My mom has a fungal infection on her toenails. It developed very recently and right now she is under onychomadesis treatment. She is taking oral anti-fungal medication and a special nail file and polish to kill the fungi.

I'm a little worried though because I sometimes borrow my mom's shoes since we wear the same size. I don't have any symptoms of a fungal infection right now but I'm scared I might have gotten it too.

How easily will nail fungi spread? Can it be spread by sharing shoes? We don't share pedicure instruments and ever since she has been diagnosed, I don't wear her shoes. I just hope I didn't pick it up. Losing toenails sounds absolutely horrible.

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