Common Toenail Problems: Causes And Treatment

Our toenails are thick extensions of the top layer of the skin and are made from up of the protein called keratin, which is the same protein present in our hair, skin and fingernails. Keratin helps the toenails to undergo any wear and tear and remain tough. The nail grows out from below the skin, from an area called matrix. Our nail bed is connected to the blood vessels.

Our toenails are exposed to extreme weather conditions, heat, friction against shoes, stubbed toe, bacteria, fungus, moisture, physical activity, etc. Pressure, scratching, and discolouration are just some of the symptoms of toenail problems.  

Toenail infection:

Toenail fungus

Toenail fungus, known as onychomycosis is a fungal infection that usually happens at the point where the nail is cut. Initially, a white or a yellow spot appears on the nail which later spreads throughout the nail, making the nail uneven.

Toenail Problems

The nail even starts to decompose. It may even spread to your skin and other toenails. This is a communicable disease and can spread from one person to another. One can get toenail fungus by wearing sweaty boots or socks for long, having wet feet, etc.  

Symptoms of toenail fungus are:

  • Under nail discolouration, usually brown, white or yellow.
  • Nail thickening.
  • Rise in the amount of keratin.
  • The infected portions tend to separate from the nail bed.
  • The nail begins to crumble and becomes uneven.
  • The toenail may even start to smell.

Toenail trauma

This is a result of an injury which can damage the nail or due to some chronic disease that changes the appearance of the nail. Trauma to the toenail can even cause thickening of the nail or frequent crumbling or even removal of the toenail from the nail bed.

Trauma to the toenail can be caused due to several reasons:

Ingrown nails

Ingrown are most common toenail problem. In this condition, the toenail gets embedded into the skin from the sides causing pain, redness and even discharge. This condition may even result in swelling, making it hard for us to walk.

Clubbed nail

The toenail appears clubbed due to problems such as heart disease, gastrointestinal disorder, cancer or lung disease. Under this situation, changes can be noticed in and around the nails. This disorder may also be inherited or developed over weeks or years. 

This condition may result in the following symptoms:

  • The toenails start to widen and curve
  • The nail beds soften
  • Toenail tips tend to bulge
  • Nails may even appear to float

Discolouration of the nail plates

Discolouration in the nails can be caused due to several reasons. Some products that we use in our nails may comprise of dye, resulting in staining of nails. Sometimes, certain medications can also cause discolouration. This is not a worrisome problem and does not even cause any pain. The discolouration may disappear as the nail grows.

Nail-patella syndrome

 This is a rare condition, which causes changes in the nails, hip bones, kneecaps or elbows. In this condition, there could be an underdeveloped or a missing nail, caused due to genetic mutation. There could be various symptoms like- underdeveloped nails, missing nails, split bails, discoloured nails, small or deformed nails.

Leukonychia

This condition results in whitening of the nail plate. Nail whitening could be in form of streaks, partial whitening or complete whitening of nails. Whitening can be due to medical conditions or due to an injury caused to the nail.

This condition can result due to several reasons such as chemotherapy, heavy metal poisoning, gene mutation, etc. in leukonychia, the nails usually appear white, in the streak, partially or whole. In case the nails have red or black lines, it may indicate a serious infection, and in such cases, the doctor must be consulted.

Causes of toenail problems:

Causes of toenail fungus

The fungus found in athlete’s foot is the same which causes toenail infection. People examined having athlete’s foot are usually detected of toenail fungus. Though this disease can infect any person, its most common among adults.

People with a weak immune system are more prone to catch this disease. People who are diabetic, or have such disorders that restrict blood circulation, can easily fall prey to such diseases. Other reasons for having a toenail fungus infection are:

  • A constant sweaty feet
  • Skin prone to fungal infections
  • Footwear which exposes the toe to a damp and moist environment.
  • Frequent breaking and crumbling of the nail.

Causes of toenail trauma

Trauma to the toenail can be caused due to a number of reasons- friction against the shoes, wearing too-tight shoes, dropping something on the nail, stubbing or picking your nails, due to running or a poorly performed pedicure. Sometimes a severe injury can be caused to the nail, rupturing the blood vessels and resulting in a condition called a subungual hematoma. In this condition, one can experience thickening of the toenail, bleeding, pain, splitting of nail, discolouration etc.

Causes of ingrown nails

  • Family history of ingrown nails.
  • Toenail problems such as toenail trauma or toenail infection
  • When the nails are clipped too short
  • Poor blood circulation
  • Lung infection
  • When shoes are too tight

Toenail problems treatment:

Treatment of toenail fungus

Toenail fungus is not cured that easily and requires antifungal medicines. In case, the fungal infection has spread across the toenail, the doctor may even recommend removing the toenail. However, sometimes these oral medications may not prove to be beneficial as the fungal infection happens deep inside the nail. Under extreme conditions, one may have to undergo laser treatment.

Treatment of  toenail trauma

There is no treatment for this condition. Once a nail is damaged, and the matrix is affected, it continues to grow in a deformed manner.

Treatment of  ingrown nails

Usually, its treatment is done at home until there a severe condition that requires medical attention, such as diabetes or nerve damage. One can also take certain steps to avoid this condition like wearing proper fitting shoes, cutting the nail and not keeping them too long, not cutting the nail too short.

Washing your foot properly. One can even use warm water and soak their feet in it for some time. In case the condition is severe, one may need to consult a doctor. The doctor, if needed, will perform a surgery to remove the toenail.

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