Skip to content
My WebMD Sign In, Sign Up

Skin Problems & Treatments Health Center

Font Size
A
A
A

Nonsurgical Nail Removal for Fungal Nail Infections

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)(What is a PDF document?) to help you understand this treatment.

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

WebMD Medical Reference from Healthwise

Last Updated: June 27, 2012
This information is not intended to replace the advice of a doctor. Healthwise disclaims any liability for the decisions you make based on this information.

Today on WebMD

Cleansing skin
Article
Contact Dermatitis
Evaluator
 
woman showing eczema to dermatologist
Tool
mosquito bite
Q&A
 
itchy skin
Article
shingles rash on skin
Article
 
woman with skin tag
Quiz
Harvest mite
Slideshow
 
woman washing her hair in sink
Video
close up of womans bare neck
Tools
 
Feet
Slideshow
woman with face cream
Quiz