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My Split Little Toenails (or Accessory Nail on the 5th Toe)

I am passionate about health-related topics in general. In this article, I share my personal experience with my double pinky toenails.

What's it like to have an accessory nail?

What's it like to have an accessory nail?

What Is an Accessory Nail of the Fifth Toe?

Split toenails are longitudinal splits that bisect the nail vertically down the middle. It almost looks like you have two tiny toenails growing side-by-side. This split usually occurs on the pinky toenail, but might affect any other nail. It can affect one foot or both. Sometimes the split occurs towards the outer edge of the nail and can be very painful. The condition is not regarded as serious, but that doesn't mean it isn't pesky. Having suffered from mine for many years, in this article I'll explain how to deal with this condition.

Do you have an extra nail on your pinky toe?

Do you have an extra nail on your pinky toe?

Accessory Nail on the Pinky Toe

Accessory Nail on the Pinky Toe

My Sixth Toenails

From about the age of about twelve, I noticed that my little toenails began to split into two. The split was interesting. It was about 1.5mm from the outer edge and was vertical or longitudinal—from the top of the nail in a straight split to the cuticle—on both feet.

I assumed that I was making it happen somehow: Perhaps I was cutting my nails incorrectly, or maybe I was catching the nails on my socks or at night in my bed sheets? They didn't really trouble me as long as I put my socks on carefully.

I assumed it was normal. Later, when I started to wear tights, the nails were forever catching and tearing on them, which was annoying and painful. Sometimes I would pull the sliver of the separated nail off in annoyance, which was painful and occasionally caused my toe to bleed. Sometimes I trimmed it down to the cuticle, but this made it catch on my clothing even more.

The split nail kept growing back no matter what I did. It never occurred to me to seek medical help.

Why Is My Little Toenail Splitting Into Two?

  • It's not rare to have a double toenail—they happen to a wide variety of people, with many racial backgrounds, in every country.
  • The condition may be genetic, as many who have them report that their mother or father has them, too, but there haven't been any studies to find out how prevalent the condition is.
  • Oftentimes, people who see splits seem to have extra-wide and extra-short nailbeds on the affected little toenails, but again, no studies have been done to verify this fact.
My Accessory Nail

My Accessory Nail

How to Fix Double Toenails on Pinky Toe

The extra nail can be removed with a nail clipper, just like any other nail. It will grow back, however, so you'll have to repeat the procedure whenever it does.

If it keeps giving you trouble and you want the removal to be permanent, then surgery—either excision (total nail removal) or phenolization (destroying a part of the nail)—is the recommended treatment.

Solution: Matrixectomy

A phenol matrixectomy is a procedure to permanently destroy the matrix. It's a simple procedure, conducted in the doctor's office under local anesthesia. Removal can be done by surgery or by using chemicals. In some instances, a laser can be used. It is also performed as a treatment for an ingrown toenail.

If a sufferer is struggling to cope with the condition and wants to have some treatment, a matrixectomy is commonly performed, which results in permanent loss of that portion of the nail.

The matrix is a structure that lies under the nail, above the nail bed, and in its formative layer. Cells there collect keratin as they divide rapidly, enabling the nail to grow and develop the characteristic hard layer. The rate of growth is around 3mm per month.

Matrixectomies are regarded as aggressive treatments and are generally avoided unless the nail condition is severe.

Nail Matrix

Nail Matrix

Split Toenails In Legend

There is quite a gruesome Chinese legend about the mythical origins of this condition. A story about a woman who was abducted by a rival faction during the Huang-ti Dynasty. She was stabbed in the stomach as she tried to escape. Later, she gave birth to two children who had scarred feet, all the descendants of whom have split little toenails.

Other legends exist, including those that are about a stubbed pinky toe. Ultimately, the accessory nail comes down to genetics.

This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and does not substitute for diagnosis, prognosis, treatment, prescription, and/or dietary advice from a licensed health professional. Drugs, supplements, and natural remedies may have dangerous side effects. If pregnant or nursing, consult with a qualified provider on an individual basis. Seek immediate help if you are experiencing a medical emergency.


Dan on July 08, 2020:

Thanks for the information! However, it seems to me that the second picture in your post is not a picture of a double toenail - it’s simply a broken toenail.

There’s no need to undergo a surgery to fix it. Simply buy something like Vitry Nail Repair Care and apply it to the entire toenail every two days until the nail grows and the ridge disappears. Make sure you clip your toenail as it grows to ensure it doesn’t break again while it heals.

That kind of broken nail never heals by itself. Depending on how far the ridge goes it should take between a couple of weeks to a couple of months, but it will heal.


JYZDABZ on March 29, 2020:

My feet are always cold so I think this is why I keep having them

GG.. on February 14, 2018:

I had them to it was so painful I just ended up yanking them out from the root they took for ever to grow back and about the 4th time it didn't grow back

Kelsie Simmons on November 04, 2017:

I had a thyroid issue(couldn't gain weight/constantly cold) and my body has since stabilized. I don't get cold so easily now, except when entering an air conditioned space during the summer due to the temperature shock.

I pay fairly close attention to my nails(I have ingrown toenails on my two big nails that have a sort of fungus that perscriptions hasn't fixed, so I maintain them and keep them healthy as possible and keep a close eye on ALL my toes as a result). It wasn't there when all this thyroid stuff was a result; I think I simply stubbed my pinky toe on something, in fact I do remember stubbing that foot on something a week or so ago, so it was more likely the impact of that on the toe.

I don't have the money to fix that via surgery, however.

Heather on May 18, 2017:

I have the split toe on my right pinky, but my body temperature is fine and I have a good metabolism. I'd like to get rid of it without surgery, but don't think that raising my body temp above 37 C /98.6 F would be good.

Nini on October 04, 2016:

I have experienced this nail problem from childhood till now. Since I was very young I have always had a low body temperature, once I hit puberty my doctors would take my temperature look at me funny and say, "are you on your period?". The answer was of course "no", and as I have gotten a bit older (25) my doctors have just accepted my abnormally low body temperature as normal for me. When I get a fever it is usually around 98F to 99F. What confuses me is that because of my lower body temperature I don't do well in heat. So I'm confused by the comments of people claiming they often feel cold(?). I can withstand the cold much better than heat. Problem is that I have bad circulation and so though it might be hot outside, you can guarantee my fingers will feel ice cold to the touch. I don't notice but others do.

My question to Janey is, if you had a low body temperature how difficult was it for you, to manually change it to a higher threshold? Is it really possible??

TGP on May 20, 2016:

First of all, all of this is silly. It doesn't matter what ethnic background you are. Anyone can have a split toenail. I'm African-American and it runs on my father's side of the family. It is more than not hereditary. You can either it that smaller split side chemically extracted like you would an ingrown toenail, continue to keep it clipped short, or keep your nails professional groomed.

Janey Hood (author) from UK on April 06, 2016:

This suggestion that I am describing a Lister's Corn is certainly interesting. I did look your suggestion up, but could not find any images that were similar to the condition I had.

I have a small joke with myself that when a condition cannot be cured the discoverer gives it his/her name! I suppose what I actually think is the name of the subset ailment is largely irrelevant but the underlying cause - in my own search for a cure - remains the same.. Perhaps a Lister's corn might also be the result of a compromised immune system?

Thank you for your input I do apprecriate any additional information if it helps people in their search for a cure.

birdie123 on April 18, 2015:

This is very interesting - i have had mine on both feet for at least 39 years. I also noticed the same temperature method cured your pompholyx and nasal problems, which i also have.

My extra nail grow and twists catching on my socks that i must wear otherwise my feet turn blue with cold. I had no choice but to pull it out which is incredibly painful for a few days afterwards. That search is how I came across this.

I will definitely look into this some more, so thank you for the information.

I am cold all the time, even in the summer and in the middle of a heatwave, i am in a multitude of jumpers and have the heating on, so in that respect i maintain my heat to a high degree and have done for years, however this has not fixed or reset my 'gauge'. I find the hotter i make myself the more sensitive i am to cold, I mean I feel even the slightest change and it gives me horrible chills.

I don't think there is an underlying medical condition for this as i have always been this way. Over the years i have tried to condition myself towards the cold to treat this self heating problem but found it painful as i also have fibro and RA.

Interestingly enough, I have none of these heat problems or cold symptoms during the week long periods i fast. Also my metabolism is quite high.

Kylie on January 15, 2015:

Hey Janey,

Thanks for this article!

I'm 32yrs old and recently noticed my little toe nail was split when it started catching on things.

I assumed it was some sort of ingrown nail from cutting incorrectly, but over the months i've become aware it won't heal.. the split is exactly the same as the photo you have put up. I've also got a mysterious bump thats popped up on the tip of my nose, around the same time as the toe thing actually. The bump isn't very noticeable, but I can feel it . I was REALLY surprised to read you have had the exact same problems.

I grew up in a really warm climate in Western Australia and am now living on the east coast, which is much cooler. I have developed very poor circulation (mainly in winter) my feet often become numb.

I will get myself a thermometer to record my temperature to see if it maintains itself well.

Thanks again.

Janey Hood (author) from UK on November 12, 2014:

Resetting a low body temperature where it has been incorrectly selected by the central metabolic control system is a difficult process involving getting the brain to 'like' operating at 37c or 98.6f instead of whatever other set point it is choosing to use. The process I went through was by sheer brute force, I raised my temperature everyday for a couple of weeks by applying heat and then maintained this for around two to three years. Now my temperature rises to 37c by itself every day. However everyone is very different and identifying the best method is tricky. It is a good idea to do this with the support of a central metabolic control system therapist, and the process is challenging so being supported is also helpful. Good luck my friend.

Temperature and metabolism are for these purposes two different things.

Janey Hood (author) from UK on November 12, 2014:

It is interesting. Although a little gruesome!

S on October 24, 2014:

This is interesting! I have the same little toenail, and I kept thinking it was a dry cuticle or that I was splitting it myself by accident! I also have a little bump on my nose. I'm always cold and my metabolism is slow.

How is it that you reset your temperature?

Samuil Hippi from Samoah on September 18, 2014:

I`ve never heard of this Chinese legend, sounds interesting, will have to look it up. Thanks.