Onychomycosis is a nail infection caused by Trichophyton rubrum, a type of fungus. Infected nails can become deformed or brittle, and the associated pain can make it hard to stand or walk. This infection, which is reported to affect as many as 12% of Americans, can be treated with noninvasive treatments like antifungal nail lacquers, but when these treatments don't work, nail avulsion may be required. Here are three things onychomycosis sufferers need to know about nail avulsion.
What is nail avulsion?
Nail avulsion is a simple surgical procedure that involves completely removing your infected toenails. This may sound scary, but the doctor will numb your toes with a digital block first, so you won't feel anything.
A nail elevator will be placed underneath the top end of your nail, and the doctor will use this elevator like a lever to pull your nail away from the nail bed. Afterward, your nail bed will be cleaned and bandaged to prevent infection. This procedure will be repeated for each infected nail.
How effective is nail avulsion?
Nail avulsion has been found to be an effective treatment when other treatments don't work. One study reported that 56% of patients were successfully cured of onychomycosis after undergoing nail avulsion.
After your procedure, be careful not to inadvertently re-infect your toenails. Socks, shoes, towels and other items that came into contact with your infected toes could lead to re-infection. Make sure to wash items like socks and towels in hot water, while shoes can be treated with anti-fungal powders. Your nail clippers should also be either sanitized or replaced.
Will your nails grow back?
Your toenails will eventually grow back. When the doctor removes your infected nails, they only move the nail itself, not the matrix. The matrix is the root of the nail, and it produces new nail cells. The average growth rate for a toenail is 1.62 millimeters (0.064 inches) per month, so it will take a long time for your toenail to fully grow back.
In general, you can expect your toenails to take about a year and a half to fully grow back. This time frame can vary depending on factors like which toenails were removed. The toenail on your big toe, for example, grows faster than the others. Men also regrow their toenails faster than women do.
Until your toenails grow back, your toes will be sensitive. You can wrap your toes with gauze to protect them while you wait for the nails to grow.
If your onychomycosis isn't responding to noninvasive treatments, see a doctor to find out if nail avulsion is a good treatment option for you. Check out the site of a medical professional for more information.