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What are the causes for a hollow toenail?

Hollow toenail, fungal toenail, onycholysis, fungal infection, Worcester, Westborough

What are the causes for a hollow toenail?

There is a common condition where the nail lifts, usually starting at the tip and going further down the toe, hollowing and detaching the nail from the nail bed. Onycholysis can also occur in the middle or the base of the nail. Many people think they might have a fungal infection because it may look white or discolored.

A way to understand how this hollowing happens is to think about a linoleum floor when there’s a lifted edge. When people try to clean it out,  they lift it up even further, detaching from the floor. Then water gets underneath and it can become problematic. It’s the same with toenails. 

Many times this can be caused by a long toenail that buckles as it pushes against the front of the shoe, also by the jamming of the toenail. In some cases, we see the thickening of the toenail because it’s lifted up.



The best way to stop a nail from hollowing is to quit picking underneath it. Unfortunately there’s no way to reverse this kind of damage. We can trim the nail back to where it is attached and get a nail sample if there’s a concern about fungus. If needed, we attach a brace at the base of the toenail to help stabilize and help it grow attached to the nail bed.

If you don’t like the look of your toenail as it heals and cannot wait the full 9 to 12 months to have a normal looking toenail, we also offer a cosmetic nail restoration at Central Massachusetts Podiatry, in Worcester and Westborough.

Call 508-757-4003 or text 508-625-7775 for a visit. First time appointments can also be scheduled right here on our website.


Dr. Donald Pelto Dr. Donald Pelto Dr. Donald Pelto is a Podiatrist at Central Massachusetts Podiatry, in Worcester and Westborough. Author of several books on foot health, he also speaks Portuguese and Spanish. He likes to go on family hikes and loves learning and talking about health related topics and healthy life hacks. Watch some of his interviews about health and video lectures on

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