Toenail Conditions


should i visit a podiatrist

Toenail problems can range from painful and frustrating to embarrassing and unsightly. The good news is there are various preventative treatments available for toenail conditions that can restore nails back to good health. Here are some of the most common toenail problems, their symptoms, and how they can be treated.

Yellow Toenails

Yellow toenails can be caused by many conditions, diseases, and personal habits. Did you know that painting your toenails red, orange or yellow can stain your nails even after you remove the polish? While that is a minor cause, in some cases yellow toenails can be the result of a more serious problem like fungal infections or diabetes.

Oftentimes yellow toenails are accompanied by additional symptoms such as thickening of the nail, brittle and weak nails or nails that crumble and flake. In most cases, yellow toenails stem from toenail fungus. Toenail fungus is not necessarily hereditary. Personal habits like walking barefoot in public or damp places, and not allowing your toenails to air out can often cause this condition.

When it comes to treating yellow toenails, there are several options that you can discuss with your podiatrist. For milder infections, medicated toenail polish that includes the ingredient Cicloprox may alleviate the discoloration. Oral antifungal medication such as Lamisil or Sporanox are additional treatment options as well. If these treatment options fail, there is the option of having the toenail surgically removed. This procedure allows for a new healthy nail to grow in its place. Lastly, new laser technology is available to effectively treat the infected area. This in-office procedure is quick and painless and is now offered at our Greensboro office.

In order to prevent yellow toenails, here are some tips to follow:

  • Wear clean socks
  • Wear shoes that are made of breathable material
  • Clean and dry your feet and toes thoroughly every day
  • Contact your podiatrist at the first sign of any discoloration and to discuss treatment options

Black and Blue Toenails

Black-and-blue toenails are caused by injury to the skin below the toenail. When injury occurs, blood and fluid collect beneath the nail plate and the nail itself begins to appear black in color. The condition occurs most frequently among runners and athletes because of the rough impact their toes are subjected to on a constant basis.

If the pain is severe you should see a podiatrist immediately to determine if you need treatment. A podiatrist may decide to drill a hole in the nail to drain the nail and relieve pressure, or remove the toenail altogether. Pain occurring from a blackened toenail can also be relieved by icing or soaking the area or with prescription medications.

In some cases the nail may fall off on its own and a new nail will grow in its place. However, you will still want to make sure you are selecting the proper footwear and keeping clean and dry feet in order to avoid reoccurrence of this nail condition.

Ingrown Toenails

An ingrown nail occurs when a toenail edge imbeds itself into the surrounding skin. The pain is usually quite noticeable when walking and some patients even notice it when their feet get caught in the bed sheets at night. An ingrown toenail is not only uncomfortable, it may lead to infection, inflammation or a more serious condition. In more severe cases you may see pus or redness around the affected area.

If the toenail is not infected then a proper trim from your podiatrist may help. In severe cases, the ingrown toenail may require antibiotics and a temporary or permanent removal of a portion of the nail. This type of procedure is performed in a podiatry office.

Ingrown toenails can be prevented by wearing the proper footwear and trimming your nails properly. To avoid infection make sure to keep your feet clean and dry.

Thickened Toenails

Thickened toenails can be caused from injury to the toe, pressure from shoes or from pre-existing conditions such as diabetes, psoriasis, or vascular disease. Other symptoms of thickened toenails include rigid, brittle or yellowed nails and there may be pain when pressure is applied to the affected toenail.

Most often, thickened toenails do not occur spontaneously as they are a symptom of another condition or problem. If you find yourself with thickened toenails, you should see a podiatrist to determine the underlying cause.

Treatment for thickened toenails often includes thinning, filing, or trimming that should be done by your podiatrist. A topical antifungal cream may also be a form of treatment as well. Treating your footwear with antifungal powder is also a way to kill any fungus that may have accumulated in the toe box of the shoe, which is another possible cause.