Medical questions & health advice by board certified doctors
"What causes fingernails and toenails to fall out?"
Several of my toenails and fingernails have fallen out in the last few months. The first one I wrote off as a freak thing, but it's definitely beginning to seem more serious now. Does this mean I have a severe illness or some kind of vitamin deficiency?
Problems with the nails can sometimes be related to serious medical conditions and should be investigated. The doctors who will be well qualified to discuss this issue with you include your primary care doctor or your dermatologist. It can occasionally be normal for an isolated nail to fall out. For example, runners will frequently lose toenails due to the repetitive pounding of running on pavement. Occasionally people who repetitively tap their fingernails will lose a fingernail. Also, fungal infections of the nails can cause nail loss. Infected nails are usually thickened and deformed. It would be very unusual to have an infection of both toe and fingernails at the same time however. Therefore, it is very important that you rule out any serious underlying medical condition. For example severe nutritional or vitamin deficiency may lead to nail loss, as may thyroid and other endocrine conditions. Various drugs or toxins may also be the cause; for example people taking chemotherapy often lose nails. As always the diagnosis and the management of your particular condition will require a physical examination by your personal physician. Setting up an office visit with your primary care doctor as soon as possible is very strongly recommended.
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