Onycholysis: Causes, Symptoms & Treatment

Onycholysis is a condition characterized by loosening and separation of the nail plate from the underlying nail bed. It is a common nail disorder that affects up to 10 percent of adults. While typically painless, the condition can cause considerable cosmetic deformity.

Causes of Onycholysis

The most common cause of onycholysis is physical trauma or injury to the nail. Examples of possible trauma that can cause nail separation include excessive manicuring, picking at the nail, banging the finger, or exposure to harsh detergents or chemicals. Certain medical conditions may also be associated with onycholysis. These conditions include hyperthyroidism, psoriasis, eczema, and many other forms of skin inflammation.

Symptoms of Onycholysis

  • Loosening or separation of the nail plate from the underlying nail bed
  • Roughening or discoloration of the nail plate
  • occasional tingling or tenderness in the affected nail
  • Pain in the nail bed
  • Nail deformity or crumbling of the nail plate
  • formation of a white or yellow-tinted space between the nail plate and the nail bed

Filementous Onycholysis

Filementous onycholysis is an uncommon form of onycholysis in which the nails separate along the longitudinal axis. This is caused by a fungal infection. Symptoms include thickening of the nails, white discoloration, and crumbling of the nail plate.

Treatment of Onycholysis

Treatment of onycholysis depends on the underlying cause. If injury or trauma is the cause, the treatment involves stopping any behaviour that is causing the injury (such as manicuring or picking at the nail). If infection is the cause, a topical antifungal medication may be prescribed. Furthermore, treating systemic conditions, such as hyperthyroidism, can help to resolve the onycholysis.