Learn more about common nail problems and their symptoms and treatment options.
Left untreated, nail problems can develop into painful infections. It’s also not uncommon for your toenail health to point to other health problems that need to be addressed. Nail problems can include:
- Ingrown toenails
- Changes in thickness
- Changes in color
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What are Ingrown Nails?
Ingrown toenails typically affect the big toe and occur when a portion of your nail grows into the soft flesh around it. Ingrown toenails are very common and some individuals are simply more prone to experience the issue.
Ingrown toenails can be caused by poorly fitting shoes, poor foot hygiene, and many other causes. To reduce the symptoms of ingrown toenails:
- Soak your feet – If the condition is not serious, soaking your feet in warm water can help to relieve swelling.
- Use a topical antibiotic – Applying an ointment to the affected area can help. Your foot doctor can recommend an over-the-counter option or provide a prescription.
- Choose footwear that fits – Shoes that are not too tight or too narrow will ensure your toes have enough room.
- Trimming a portion of the nail – Your podiatrist may trim a small portion of the nail to relieve symptoms.
- Temporary or permanent removal of a portion of the nail – In the case of severe infections, it may be necessary for your doctor to remove part of the nail.
What are Thickened Nails?
Toenails thicken because of many different causes. Thickening occurs naturally with age, but is also the result of fungal or bacterial infections, major trauma to the nail, or repetitive pressure from activities like running or walking. Thickened nails can be painful to the touch, and may appear ridged, brittle, or yellowish.
- Nail is noticeably thicker
- Nail is painful to the touch
- Ridged nail
- Brittle nail
- Yellowish nail
Reducing the symptoms of a thickened toenail depends on the cause of the issue. Your doctor may suggest some of the following treatments:
- Careful filing and trimming – Discuss specific techniques with your doctor.
- Topical or anti-fungal medication – If the thickening is a result of a fungal infection, this may be one solution.
- Reducing the nail plate – Your doctor may reduce the nail plate if the cause is from injury or age.
- Removal of the nail to the root – In more serious cases, it might be necessary for your doctor to remove your nail to the root.
Black and Blue Nails
What are Black and Blue Nails?
Toenails that turn black and blue are the result of an injury to the skin beneath the nail. The condition is common in runners, soccer players, and other athletes who perform repetitive or forceful motions for prolonged periods of time. Improperly fitting footwear is one common cause because inadequate space in the toebox causes toes to hit the top, sides, or front of the shoe. In addition, a violent impact to the toe can result in black and blue nails.
- Toenail that appears black, blue, or deep purple
- Reddening, swelling, and/or throbbing of the toe itself
- Soaking or icing the toe – Swelling and pain can be relieved by soaking or applying ice to the toe.
- Removal of the toenail – Your podiatrist may remove the toenail in a severe case.
- Drilling a hole in the nail – To relieve pressure and allow drainage, your doctor may drill a hole in the nail.