Toenail Not Growing

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There are occasional reports of a toenail not growing; however, in most instances, the nail is growing, it is just doing so so very slowly that it’s difficult to tell. Nails grow slowly: it will take an average of six months for a fingernail to grow out completely, and a toenail takes at least twice as long. They also seem to grow more slowly as we get older. Sometimes the cure is simply patience. If you just wait, eventually you will see growth.

In other instances, the appearance of a toenail not growing may result from it being worn down or destroyed so fast at the tip that no growth is visible. Sometimes activities (like a daily walk, barefoot on a sandy beach?) will wear away the tips of the nails so that they never have to be cut, much like a dog’s toenails will be kept short by walking or running on pavement all the time. Infectious causes could be at work as well. Fungal infections of the nails often make nails soft and crumbly, so that they come apart and remain short. Infected nails are usually yellowish or brownish, thick, distorted and unhealthy looking. An antifungal treatment of some kind is needed to resolve this kind of problem.

When you truly have a toenail not growing, it could be that the root of the nail is damaged. The root is hidden under the flesh at the base of the nail, between the cuticle and the knuckle. Specialized cells here pack together dead skin cells into dense layers to form the nail. As the cells in the root pack together more and more skin cells, the ones that are already packed are pushed outwards. If, for any reason, the packing of cells stops, the nail will stop growing. There could be various reasons for this, ranging from physical damage to the root, to drug side effects, or disease processes. When there is no obvious history of finger or nail injury to explain a toenail not growing, a doctor should be consulted.

To have a toenail not growing is a rare thing. Unless there is something obviously wrong with the toe (indicated by swelling, inflammation, pain, discoloration, etc.), there is probably not a problem. Wait and see if a month changes your perspective. The nail will probably have inched forward a bit by that time.

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R. Drysdale

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  • A number of people, including me, DO have toenails that stop growing. The title suggests that this post might be helpful for people like us, but it really isn't; instead it seems to say "you think you know what's happening, but you don't," which is frustrating when someone is seeking solutions. In my case, the nails on both of my big toes stop growing, the cuticle (or what is commonly referred to by non-professionals as the cuticle) disappears, and then it builds to an obvious infection at the base of the nail, which requires antibiotics. Meanwhile, a new nail begins growing out underneath the stunted one. The nail never grows out fully, but continues this sort of "shingled" pattern. Repeat ad nauseam. Physicians have no clue what to do besides continue to prescribe ever-stronger antibiotics and recommend warm soaks, which are unhelpful as this is not an ingrown toenail. Podiatrists recommend removing part or all of the nail, and people who have done this have found that it doesn't solve the problem or results in lifelong deformity. Given that this problem is not an isolated event, and there are a lot of frustrated patients looking for answers, it'd be great to see this topic addressed by someone who knows what's wrong or what's causing it or how to treat it successfully.

    • The same thing is happening to my big toenails, as well as the toe next to the big toe on my right foot. I believe the cause of this is a pedicure I had 8 years ago- this has been the case ever since then. Although I know the cause, what is going on and how do I fix it? I’m a young woman with hideous and sometimes painful toes. I would love to wear sandals in public again.

      • Exact same thing over here. It all started when a high school classmate stomped on both my feet. Soon after both my big toenails started doing the cycle: nails stop growing, the skin around the nails starts swelling near the summer, pus comes out, a whole appears at the top, and a new nail starts growing underneath the old one during the winter, until it stops and the cycle repeats.

        Thing is, A few years ago, it simply stopped. I’d long given up on a solution, as most things didn’t work. The nails started growing again. Only recently, after I was finally able to cut the last piece of double-nail from each of them, they stopped growing again. They haven’t grown in months, but they also haven’t got infected either. So I’m at a sort of stalemate.

  • My toenail has a bruise under most of it near the base. No cuticle is visible and nothing has changed in at least two months. All other nails have grown and been clipped 3-3 times but not this one. If the root is dead or damaged can it be fixed?

  • Not a very useful article. I came here from a search because I want information about a toenail not growing, and all this really says over and over is that I'm probably wrong. I already know my nail is not growing, this is of no help.

  • I wouldn't waste my time if it wasn't something I've been monitoring for a number of months. The nails are not growing.

  • I too find this answer totally unhelpful. I have a toenail with the pattern almost exactly as described in the first comment, the most helpful advice I have received was from a dermatologist: "We (ie doctors/medical science) don't know what causes this, but many people have it, and there is no known treatment. You could have the nail removed, but it may not help. Deal with it as best you can in whatever way seems best to you." I have found mild relief from massaging the area just below the cuticle lightly, which actually doesn't feel that great b/c is it sore, but I think it may help by increasing circulation to the area, where normal function is clearly stuck or blocked somehow. Regardless of what I have tried (various soaks, various otc and prescription antifungals, sanding down the ridge with a nail file, polishing or not polishing, massage) the nailbed "releases" and regrows for brief periods every 3-9 months. Then it has a giant ridge of thicker nail where it was "stuck"," and at some point (usually after 3-6 months) it returns to being stuck, and the process begins all over again. I've had very few professional pedicures in my life, and definitely none since this developed, but if it's transmissible, I suppose it could have come from one of the ones I got years ago. Good luck to all my fellow sufferers of this malady, and please post anything you learn or discover, 'cause doctors clearly don't know much about this.

  • Not helpful at all for people whose toenail is not growing. You say that if it truly is not growing, then its cuz the root is damaged, yet you don’t say anything about how to fix this… waste of time.

  • Agree with the people before me with nails that really have stopped growing.

    One of my toenails stopped growing after the toe got injured. There was blood under the nail and I drained it by puncturing the nail. After that I cut away the nail completely as it was damaged anyway. Also it obstructed the formation of the new nail. However, the new nail is rather short and has not shown any growth for many months. I doubt it will of its own accord…

    Maybe someone will post a solution one of these days!

  • My big toenail was damaged about 5 years ago while water rafting. It became severely bruised, turning completely black. It stayed like this for several months. Then, the toenail turned yellowy with 3D like lines on it. Over the last 5 years this toenail hasn’t grown at all. About 6 months ago I saw a specialist because I was incurring a throbbing pain. It was thought there may be an infection or fungus so a sample was taken of the nail by scraping away at part of the surface. While awaiting results, I was told to use a nail varnish like product called Onicker by Pharcos, 4 ml, only available on prescription. A few weeks later results were negative, there was no fungus. Since then, the toenail has remained the same. Personally, I believe the nail was traumatized because it was severely bashed about in the raft and I don’t think there will be any change to the situation in the future. I hope this information is of use.

  • Hi hope this helps I was in terrible pain with my big toe 25 years ago. Doc gave me painkillers that didn’t help and didn’t know what else to tell me. Eventually the pain was so bad I found a foot doc privately. He pulled my nail out then made me hop up 3 flights of stairs to x Ray it. Turns out I had extra bone growth pressing against the nail causing the pain. My nail grew back but always looked slightly deformed and brittle at the edge. My pain went away no probs. Recently I noticed inflammation and physical changes around this toe. Went to docs she told me to go podiatrist. I went she snorted at me and didn’t believe my original story and said if it doesn’t go back to normal go and get it mri scanned. Another 2 weeks to go and I’m back to the docs again. This may help or not. My toenail has stopped growing.

  • I got a professional pedicure 3 weeks ago and every toe except the 1 has grown out approximately 2mm from the cuticle. Why is 1/10 not growing? I haven’t had to trim it in years. There was no damage or swelling and if there ever was, it should be long healed. The rest I trim normally. All you have to say is see a doctor?

  • Same happened to my big toe nail. Had it removed about 2 years ago and cultured negative of fungus. It just stopped growing at midpoint to this day. I went back to the podiatrist and suggested I could have it permanently removed. Has anyone there have done the same?

  • I can relate to the person who got their foot stomped on in school. I was trying to grow my toenails longer for the summer, but someone stepped on my foot and broke the nail. I got home and clipped it, and ever since then, my nail hasn’t grown. I noticed a section of my nail that was yellow and kinda crumbly, so I decided to just cut it off and get as much stuff out of the bottom of my nail as possible. I have no idea if this is going to help, and I seriously doubt it will. I don’t know about all the people saying another nail is growing under the first one, but taking a closer look, it does kinda look like that might be happening. I really don’t know what to do, so I guess I’m just learning with the rest of the people here.

  • I realized about a year ago (March 2019) that the nails on my two big toes had not grown at all for several months. There was a bit of soreness in the skin area around the base of the nails. I knew one my of cats had accidentally pricked that area on my right big toe with his claw and at first I had assumed the soreness was result of that but in both big toes? I thought something else was going on. It seemed like growth was going into thickening the nails, not pushing them up.

    I’d been wearing organic cotton socks pretty much 24/7 all winter (first time I’d done that) and I wondered if that was part of the problem. So, in March 2019 I began going barefoot more often and, when the weather warmed up, I’d sit outside daily and give my toenails natural sunlight and fresh air. They started growing again! And, it’s now February 2020, and they’ve continued to grow. It’s slow-going so I estimate it will be another six months before they fully grow out and look entirely normal.

    But, that is my solution, air and sunlight! Who knew?

  • This is not very helpful. I had bruises on both my big toe nails a while back and it was painful. When the bruising finally went away, the left side of my right big toenail grows very very slowly and it’s the same for the right side of my left big toenail. The rest of the nails grow out normally, and I’m just trying to figure out what it could be. I can’t afford to see anyone about it.

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R. Drysdale

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