Dead Toenail Causes, Symptoms, Pictures, Removal &Treatment

What causes dead toenail? Can dead toenails grow back? Well, people with dead or black toenails experiences a lot of discomfort and pain. Nails on both feet and hands play a vital role in our lives; they do counter pressure from external factors that come directly from fingers or toes.

In this post, we tried to provide insightful information about the problems that lead to dead or black toenails with their respective symptoms. You can also explore the article and discover some of the best ways on how to remove a dead or black toenail.

What is Dead Toenail?

A dead toenail is also termed as a black toenail. It occurs due to nail discoloration from nail polish, nutritional deficiencies, infection, or trauma. However, most factors that lead to black toenails usually clear up on their own without any form of treatment.

You can remove or treat the underlying infection that has made your toenail to be dead or stopped growing. Therefore, with the proper form of treatment, your nail will heal and come back to normal after a few months.


According to Mayo clinics, it is important to identify dead toenail causes and treat it early in order to avoid future complications. The following are some of the major detailed causes of dead or black toenails.

Fungal Infections

This is the main reason for any form of nail damage on both toes and fingers. Fungal infection under the nails could result in yellow or discolored nails, thickened, damaged or broken toenails that later fall off as toenails that are dead.

It is advisable to treat fungal infections on the nails as soon as possible in order to prevent it from spreading to other new nails that may also result in infected ingrown toenails.

Note: You can also read my article on how to get rid of an infected ingrown toenail that occurs due to both fungal and bacterial infection.

Trauma or Injuries

Most people lose their toenails due to trauma or injuries. You can experience these injuries when a heavy object or item hits your nail bed directly. This may cause the toenail to become dead and also pose other health problems.

Wearing Wrong Size Footwear

You can develop black toenails after wearing ill-fitting shoes for a long period of time. The wrong side of the shoe applies pressure on the nails which later stop the growth and making them turn black in color. It is recommended to wear the right size of the shoe in order to prevent the formation of both ingrown nails and black toenails.

Sporting Activities

If you get involve in sporting activities such as running and playing soccer, the chances of having toenails that are dead are high. This is due to the repeated application of pressure on the toenails while playing or running. This may turn your toenails to appear black in color.


Foot blisters mainly develop under the nail beds. It later causes peeling of the toenail from the skin. It is advisable to apply the treatment on the foot blisters first before adopting various ways on how to remove toenails that are considered dead.

Black toenail cancer

This can also be another cause of toenails that are dead but according to doctors on WebMD, the type of cancer is rare. It also causes the appearance of dark spots under the nail beds as well as the toenails. Always visit your doctor for diagnosis, in order to rule out Melanoma or offer treatment during the early stages.

Signs and Symptoms

The dead toenail is usually black in color. This is contrary to the original color which is pink or reddish, purplish or brownish. After the infection, it tends to become darker and darker.

During the early stages of toenails becoming dead, you will experience a lot of pain especially if it is due to trauma or injuries on toes. The pain tends to clear up after several days or weeks.

In case of infection, you will notice a certain discharge with the bad odor coming underneath the toenails. It is recommended to see your doctor for early treatment and in order to avoid further complications.

Further Reading:
1. Black Specks in Stool
2. Big Toenail Pain


It is advisable to take care of the underlying cause in order to get rid of the black toenails on your toes. Should you remove a dead toenail? Well, the following is a step by step guide that will help you on how to remove a dead toenail.

Step 1

It is recommended to disinfect the area using a cotton ball soaked in hydrogen peroxide. This will help to get rid of any germs around the area.

Step 2

Although the step is optional, you can wrap the affected toe tightly with a rubber band in order to help minimize any form of bleeding.

Step 3

Using a pair of scissors, you can cut down the affected nail into the nail bed gently. Cut all the way down to the cuticle.

Step 4

Using tweezers or forceps grip the now separated strip of the nail and pull up and out until the piece of the nail has come out. If the nail breaks, grab what remains and pull it out.

Step 5

Repeat Steps 3 and 4 to gradually take the nail out, strip by strip.

Step 6

Clean with the cotton ball soaked in hydrogen peroxide and put a bandage over the exposed nail bed.


Trauma or mechanical injury that lead to dead or black toenail do not need any form of treatment since it usually clears up after some time. Application of cold compress and use of over the counter painkillers can help to relieve the initial pain

You can also clip off the edges of the affected dead toenail which will later fall off on its own and replaced with a new nail.

In case of severe cases of fungal infection, you can visit your doctor for a prescription of antifungal treatment. This will effectively get rid of the infection completely.


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