Many individuals generally don’t pay a lot of attention to their toenails—until a problem arises. Here are some common problems related to toenails, and what to do about them:
Toenails are supposed to grow straight out, but incorrect clipping, heredity, shoes that are too small, and trauma can all cause the nail to bend downward at the edges and grow into the skin. The toe eventually becomes painful, red, and swollen and can even become infected. Patients who have diabetes or arteriosclerosis of the arteries in the legs should see a podiatrist right away, since infections can be much more serious for them. A foot doctor will remove the ingrown part of the nail with local anesthesia. Patients with no complications can also benefit from seeing a podiatrist, since expert treatment will bring quicker healing and pain relief with less chance of infection.
Fungal infections, called onychomycosis, occur primarily in the toenails, where the blood circulation is the poorest. Fungi thrive in dark, damp places like shoes. Thickening, distortion, and changes in color of the nails are the results. The infection is frequently ignored because there is rarely any discomfort at first. Eventually, the nails may develop a foul odor and thicken to the point that they make walking difficult. The infection can be spread to the rest of the toenails, the fingernails, or the skin. The only way to get rid of fungal infections is to see your foot doctor, who will prescribe the most effective treatment, such as antifungal medication.
The usual cause for black toenails is trauma. Dropping a heavy object on your toe or stubbing your toe can cause blood vessels to break, with results in bleeding under the nail. This is a subungual hematoma or blood clot under the nail and can be extremely painful. The only way to relieve the pain is to see a foot doctor who will drill a tiny hole in the nail to let the blood out and release the pressure.
Black nails that appear without obvious injury are usually found in runners who are wearing shoes that pinch the toes together. This causes the top of the shoe to hit the nail repeatedly, causing slow bleeding beneath the nail. The treatment for this situation is get properly fitting shoes. One other cause for a black spot under a nail is a very serious skin cancer called melanoma.