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Onycholysis left hand 34yo male ring and little fingers non-fungal.jpg
Left hand onycholysis: ring and little fingers affected
Classification and external resources
Specialty dermatology
ICD-10 L60.1
ICD-9-CM 703.8
DiseasesDB 9236
MeSH D054039

Onycholysis /ˌɒnɪˈkɒlɪsɪs/ is a common medical condition characterized by the painless detachment of the nail from the nail bed, usually starting at the tip and/or sides.[1] On the hands, it occurs particularly on the ring finger but can occur on any of the fingernails. It may also happen to toenails.

Onycholysis can occur in many conditions, including psoriasis.[2] In thyrotoxicosis it is thought to be due to sympathetic overactivity.[3] It may also be seen in infections or trauma.[4]


Onycholysis is from onycho-, from Ancient Greek ὄνυξ ónuks, meaning "nail", and Ancient Greek λύσις lúsis, meaning "a loosening".



Most instances of onycholysis without a clear cause will heal spontaneously within a few weeks. The most commonly recommended treatment is to keep the nail dry as much as possible and allow the nail to slowly reattach. Trimming away as much loose nail as can be done comfortably will prevent the nail from being pried upwards. Cleaning under the nail is not recommended as this only serves to separate the nail further. Bandages are also to be avoided.[6] When kept dry and away from further trauma, the nail will reattach from the base upward (i.e., from proximal to distal).

If the underlying cause of the condition is not found and the nail continues to detach despite conservative treatment, the nail bed may begin to form a granular layer of abnormal cells on its surface. After six months of detachment, this layer is likely to prevent the adhesion of any new nail tissue, possibly leading to permanent deformity.[7]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Freedberg; et al. (2003). Fitzpatrick's Dermatology in General Medicine (6th ed.). McGraw-Hill. p. 660. ISBN 0-07-138076-0. 
  2. ^ Dennis, Mark; Bowen, William Talbot; Cho, Lucy (2012). "Onycholysis (Plummer's nail)". Mechanisms of Clinical Signs. Elsevier. p. 542. ISBN 978-0729540759; pbk 
  3. ^ Talley&O'Connor (2006). Clinical Examination A Systematic Guide to Physical Diagnosis (5th ed.). Elsevier. p. 262. ISBN 0-7295-3762-5. 
  4. ^ Weber&Kelley (2010). Health Assessment in Nursing (4th ed.). Wolters Kluwer Health and Lippincott, Williams & Wilkins. p. 193. ISBN 978-0-7817-8160-2. 
  5. ^ Hazin, Ribhi; Tamimi, Tarek I. Abu-Rajab; Abuzetun, Jamil Y.; Zein, Nizar N. (October 2009). "Recognizing and treating cutaneous signs of liver disease". Cleveland Clinic Journal of Medicine. 76 (10): 599–606. doi:10.3949/ccjm.76A.08113. ISSN 0891-1150. PMID 19797460. 
  6. ^ "Onycholysis". American Osteopathic College of Dermatology. Retrieved 29 December 2016. 
  7. ^ Richard K. Scherr (1 December 1997). "The Nail Doctor: Onycholysis, or Nail Separation, Has Different Varieties". Nails Magazine.