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

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 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.

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


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 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.


ByHealthwise Staff
Primary Medical Reviewer Patrice Burgess, MD – Family Medicine
Adam Husney, MD – Family Medicine
Martin J. Gabica, MD – Family Medicine
Specialist Medical Reviewer Ellen K. Roh, MD – Dermatology

Current as ofOctober 5, 2017