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Nonsurgical Nail Removal for Fungal Nail Infections

Treatment Overview

Nonsurgical (chemical) nail removal is a painless procedure for a fungal nail infection. This technique removes only the diseased and damaged nail, not the healthy part of the nail. It is done in a clinic or your doctor's office. Either the entire nail (avulsion) or part of the nail (debridement) can be removed. This procedure is almost always painless.

Your doctor will first place cloth adhesive tape on the normal skin around the infected nail. A urea ointment is then put directly on the nail surface and covered with plastic and tape. The ointment softens the nail over the next 7 to 10 days. You must keep the nail and dressing dry during this time.

After the nail softens, your doctor removes the treated nail by lifting the nail away from the nail bed or by cutting out the diseased portion of the nail.

What To Expect After Treatment

The area exposed by the nail removal should be kept dry. It should heal within 2 weeks. Fingernails may take 6 months to grow back, and toenails may take 12 to 18 months to grow back.

Why It Is Done

Nonsurgical nail removal can be used for severe antifungal infections and on nails that have increased in size due to abnormal growth (hypertrophic). It is rarely necessary.

How Well It Works

After the diseased and dead tissue has been removed, the infection can be further treated by applying an antifungal cream to the remaining infected area or by taking oral antifungal medicine.

Risks

After nail removal, the wound can become infected. You can reduce the risk of infection by keeping the area clean and dry, and regularly applying antibiotic ointment.

The fungal infection may not be killed and may infect the new nail that grows.

What To Think About

Nail removal makes it possible to apply an antifungal cream directly to the infected area, increasing the likelihood that the infection can be cured.

This procedure offers a good chance of cure for severe nail infections.

Complete the special treatment information form (PDF)special treatment information form (PDF)(What is a PDF document?) to help you understand this treatment.

Credits

By Healthwise Staff
Patrice Burgess, MD - Family Medicine
E. Gregory Thompson, MD - Internal Medicine
Last Revised June 27, 2012

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