Toenail problems are pretty common, and there are a variety of treatment options available. If you notice any abnormality in your toenails such that you experience signs of infection, such as redness, severe pain, or drainage of pus, please contact Dr. Tea for an evaluation.
Common Toenail Problems
Your toenails can reveal a lot about your overall health and provide the first sign of systemic disease. The most common toenail problems include:
- Ingrown Toenails
- Toenail Fungus
- Toenail Trauma
- Clubbed Nails
- Thick Toenails
Ingrown toenails curve and grow into the nail borders (the sides of the nail). They often irritate the skin, creating pain, redness, swelling, and warmth in the toes.
Any break in the skin due to ingrown toenails may become a hotbed for bacteria and result in an infection. Infection is often marked by drainage and a foul odor.
Causes of Ingrown Toenails
Causes of ingrown toenails include:
- Improper Trimming. The most common cause of ingrown toenails is cutting your nails too short, which encourages the skin next to the nail to fold over the nail.
- Heredity. In many people, the tendency for ingrown toenails is passed down from parent to child.
- Trauma. Sometimes ingrown toenails result from physical trauma, such as stubbing your toe, having an object fall on your toe, or engaging in activities that involve repeated pressure on the toes, such as kicking or running.
- Incorrect Footwear. Ingrown toenails can result from wearing socks and shoes that are too tight or short for your feet.
- Nail Conditions. Nail problems, such as fungal infections or losing a nail due to trauma, can cause ingrown toenails.
Treatment for Ingrown Toenails
Treatment for ingrown toenails depends on the condition of the nail. In case of infection, oral antibiotics may be prescribed.
Other treatment options include the following:
- Onyfix is a nonsurgical treatment option for involuted and ingrown toenails. It is an innovative nail correction system that provides painless treatment of almost all forms of involuted and ingrown toenails.
The system is versatile, allowing your foot care expert to adapt the system individually and affix it to your nail. Onyfix uses a hardened composite to help ingrown or involuted toenails grow back to their natural shape through normal growth without any tension or pain.
Preventing Ingrown Toenails
Follow these tips to prevent ingrown toenails:
- Trimming Nails Properly – To avoid ingrown toenails, cut your toenails in a straight line and file down the edges on the side. When you finish, you should still be able to get your fingernail under the sides and end of the nail.
- Wearing Well-Fitted Shoes - Don’t wear shoes that are short or tight in the toe area. You should also avoid shoes that are too loose because they too cause pressure on the toes, especially when running or walking briskly.
Toenail fungus is a common condition that can affect people of any age. Fungal infections can grow in toenails because fungi thrive in warm, moist environments, such as the insides of your shoes.
Toenail Fungus Symptoms
You may have toenail fungus if your:
- Toenails appear discolored, usually white or yellow
- Toenails become thickened or misshapen
- Toenails are brittle or crumbly
- Toenails have a foul-smell
Spread of Toenail Fungus
Toenail fungus can spread from one toe to another and surrounding skin.
Causes of Toenail Fungus
Toenail fungus can be caused by:
- Athlete’s foot spreading to the bed of the toenail
- Fungal infection on your foot
- Weakened immune system
- Constricting footwear
- Walking barefoot where someone else with an infection has walked, such as saunas and locker rooms
- Wearing the same sweaty shoes and socks every day
- Working in wet conditions
Toenail Fungus Treatment
Toenail fungus can be challenging to treat, and it can take several months for the fungal infection to go away completely. Treatment options may include prescription creams or ointments, oral medications, removal of the toenail to treat the nail bed underneath, or laser therapy.
Preventing Toenail Fungus
There are steps you can take to prevent toenail fungus, including:
- Keeping your feet clean and dry
- Avoiding walking barefoot in saunas, locker rooms, pools, and public showers
- Avoiding sharing nail clippers
Patients with diabetes should properly manage their blood sugar levels, as they are at high risk for toenail fungus.
Trauma to your toenail usually results from some form of injury, such as stubbing your toes, dropping something heavy onto your foot, wearing ill-fitting shoes, and picking at your nails. Other traumatic injuries to the toenail may result from a poorly done pedicure or from activities such as running or ballet dancing.
Symptoms of Toenail Trauma
Any significant trauma to the toenail is bound to result in pain or throbbing. Some people may also experience some bleeding or a collection of blood under the toenail.
Other symptoms may include:
- Thickening of the toenail
- Nail lifting away from the skin
Sometimes injuries to the toe could also cause the toenail to separate completely or partially from the nail bed or cause injury to the underlying bone.
Treatment for Toenail Trauma
Treatment for toenail trauma depends on the type of injury and can include surgery and /or oral or topical medication.
Clubbed toenails refer to changes under and around the toenails that cause the toes to take on a widened, club-like appearance.
Causes of Clubbed Toenails
Clubbed toenails are often the result of underlying medical conditions, such as heart disease, lung disease, gastrointestinal disorders, and cancer. For some people, it is an inherited trait.
Symptoms of Clubbed Toenails
Symptoms of clubbed nails may include:
- Widening and rounding of toenails
- Downward curving of the toenails
- A pronounced angle between the cuticles and nails
- Softening of the nail beds
- Floating appearance of the nails
- Bulging of the tips of the toes
Treatment for Clubbed Toenails
Treatment for clubbed nails requires treating the underlying medical condition.
There are several causes for thick toenails, including toenail fungus, psoriasis, type 1 or 2 diabetes, sudden or repeated trauma or injury to the toenails due to sports activities (e.g., running, dancing, etc.), as well as ill-fitting shoes.
Psoriasis is an autoimmune disease that usually causes red, scaly patches on the skin. It can also cause fingernails and toenails to thicken. If psoriasis is the cause of your nail thickness, you are likely to develop ridges on the nails, and the nails may become loose and separate from the nail bed.
Additionally, aging can cause your toenails to thicken.
Over time as the toenails get thicker, you might start experiencing some symptoms, such as:
- Nails become brittle and easy to break
- Nails have a bad odor
- Nails lift from the nail bed easily
- Nails become difficult to cut or trim
- Nails split or crack easily
- Nails become painful
Thick toenails may also change in appearance by taking on a yellow, green, or brown hue and start looking gnarly or have some scaling on the surface.
Consulting a Podiatrist
If thick toenails are left untreated, they can get worse and cause pain. It is, therefore, important to seek medical advice when you notice any discoloration or thickening of the nails. There may be some underlying medical conditions causing these issues that need to be addressed.
Treatment for Thick Toenails
The treatment for thick toenails depends on its cause. Your doctor will look at your medical history and examine your nails to determine the appropriate treatment.
For instance, if nail thickening is due to psoriasis, your doctor may prescribe additional medication or recommend topical steroids or injections to help the nails heal.
Toenail Care at Pacific Point Podiatry
If you have issues with toenail problems, schedule a consultation with Dr. Tea Nguyen at Pacific Point Podiatry. Call us at (831) 288-3400 or request an appointment online.