What is nonsurgical nail removal?

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Nonsurgical nail removal for fungal nail infections: 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 are the risks of nonsurgical nail removal for fungal nail infections?

After nail removal, the wound can become infected. You can reduce the risk of infection by keeping the area clean. The fungal infection may not be killed and may infect the new nail that grows.

What can you expect as you recover from nonsurgical nail removal for fungal nail infections?

Fingernails may take 6 months to grow back. Toenails may take 12 to 18 months to grow back.

The area exposed by the nail removal should be kept clean. You may cover the area with a thin layer of petroleum jelly, such as Vaseline, and a nonstick bandage. Apply more petroleum jelly and replace the bandage as needed. It should heal within 2 weeks.

After the diseased and dead tissue has been removed, the infection can treated. You might apply an antifungal cream to the remaining infected area. Or you might take oral antifungal medicine.

Why is nonsurgical nail removal for fungal nail infections 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.

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