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Lifted / detached nails

What is a lifted/detached nail?

A lifted nail is where the nail plate is no longer attached to the nail bed, it can occur due to many different factors. It may cause discomfort and leads a chance of being ripped off on bedding or clothes if not treated.

What causes a lifted or detached nail?

Lifted nails can either be caused by certain systemic conditions, an infection, a large blow or trauma to the toe, or multiple small traumas to the toe e.g from footwear or activities, for example:

Major trauma

  • Stubbing toe
  • Dropping something on toe
  • Kicking something large or stationary
  • Someone standing on the toe

Minor trauma

  • High heels
  • Shoes which are too tight or narrow
  • Activities which risk the toe being knocked or pushes up against the shoe, e.g football, skipping or running
  • Running a marathon

Systemic disease/skin conditions

  • Peripheral arterial disease
  • Psoriasis
  • Eczema


  • Onychomycosis infection (fungal injection of the nail)
  • Bacterial infection of the surrounding soft tissues of the nail plate

Who gets lifted or detached nails?

Anyone can get lifted or detached nail, people are more at risks if they wear unsuitable of ill-fitting shoes, or take part in certain activities or sports which increase the risk of this occurring, those that are increased risk of developing this are:

  • Runners
  • Footballers
  • Those who wear heels regularly
  • It is common shortly after taking part in a marathon
  • Wearers of steel toe cap shoes or boots

What are the signs and symptoms of a lifted or detached nail?

Initially there is usually pain experienced around the toe nail area, the nail may appear white as it detached from the nail bed. The nail could have a dark/black appearance to it in if a subungual haematoma (bleeding under the nail has occurred).

Benefits of podiatry for a lifted or detached nail?

Podiatry for a lifted or detached nail will provide a reduction in symptoms associated with a detached nail, often when the majority of the nail plate becomes detached, the anchor point where it is still attached can become painful as the nail wobbles and moves when any pressure is applied to it. If treatment is not performed it is likely that the loose nail gets caught on bedding, clothing or hosiery and is ripped off in an aggressive and uncontrolled way, this can be excruciating and leaving an open wound which provided a portal of entry for infection to penetrate into.

If the nail is left partially attached, the detached nail plate leaves an ideal pocket for moisture and bacteria to sit and thrive under the nail in the moist, warm environment, and can lead to the development of a fungal or bacterial infection under the nail.

What would podiatry for lifted or detached nail involve?

If you think your nail has become lifted or detached, it is important to visit a podiatrist. The podiatrist will examine the nail and give advice on how to prevent this reoccurring in the future if possible. The podiatrist will carefully cut back and trim all the loose and lifted nail to its attachment and smooth any rough edges. If there is any blood or infection this is usually cleared as well.


A lifted or detached nail is usually caused by trauma or infection, if the nail is partially lifted and not causing discomfort, then it is usually nothing to worry about. If the majority of the nail plate if lifted and/or causing pain or discomfort, then it is important to visit a podiatrist who will remove any lifted or problematic portions of nails to prevent exacerbating the problem in the future. Occasionally lifted nails are permanent and irreversible.

To arrange an assessment with one of our podiatrists please email or call 0330 088 4222.

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