Ingrown Toenails

What to Do When Your Toenails Have Problems

Black Toenails

Black toenails can result from a variety of things. Athletes will often encounter a problem with their toenails turning dark. Darkened nails often occur from the toe hitting the end or the top of the shoe toe area. The darkened nail is essentially a bruised nail. Sometimes, the bruise can lead to a fungal nail infection. If you are a diabetic, any change in the color of your toenail should be evaluated. Contact our office to set up an appointment. The pressure, which caused the bruising of the nail, can cause a small sore under the toenail, and the sore can become infected.

Treatment may include trimming the loose nail back and applying a topical anti-fungal medication. If the skin under the nail is ulcerated, a topical antibiotic ointment should be applied. Patients with diabetes should not treat this condition themselves and should contact our office.

Ingrown Toenails

Ingrown toenails often are the result of trimming your toenails too short, particularly on the sides of your big toes.

While they are common, ingrown toenails can be painful. When trimming your nails, avoid tapering the corners so that the nail curves with the shape of your toe. The sides of the nail will curl down and dig into your skin. Shoes that are too tight or short also may cause ingrown toenails.

Ingrown toenail start out hard, swollen and tender, and later, may become sore, red and infected. Your skin may start to grow over the ingrown toenail.

Soaking your foot in warm, soapy water several times each day is usually a good way to treat an ingrown nail. Please contact our office to determine the best course of treatment for your condition.

Antibiotics are sometimes prescribed if an infection is present. Part of your ingrown toenail (partial nail plate avulsion) may need to be surgically removed if an acute infection occurs. The procedure involves injecting the toe with an anesthetic and cutting out the ingrown part of the toenail.

You can prevent ingrown toenails by:

  • Trimming your toenails straight across with no rounded corners.

  • Ensuring that your shoes and socks are not too tight.

  • Keeping your feet clean at all times.

Nail Fungus

Many people don't realize they have a fungal nail problem. Moreover, many do don't seek treatment. Still, fungal toenail infections are a common foot health problem.

Such infections can persist for years without ever causing pain. The disease, characterized by a change in a toenail's color, is often considered nothing more than a mere blemish, but it can present serious problems if left untreated.

Also referred to as Onychomycosis, fungal nail infections are an infection underneath the surface of the nail, which can also penetrate the nail. In addition to causing difficulty and pain when walking or running, fungal nail infections are often accompanied by a secondary bacterial and/or yeast infection in or about the nail plate.

A group of fungi called dermophytes easily attack the nail, thriving off keratin, the nail's protein substance. When the tiny organisms take hold, the nail may become thicker, yellowish-brown or darker in color, and foul smelling. Debris may collect beneath the nail plate, white marks frequently appear on the nail plate, and the infection is capable of spreading to other toenails, the skin, or even the fingernails.

Nail bed injury may make the nail more susceptible to all types of infection, including fungal infection. Those who suffer chronic diseases, such as diabetes, circulatory problems, or immune-deficiency conditions, are especially prone to fungal nails. Other contributory factors may be a history of Athlete's foot and excessive perspiration.

You can prevent fungal nail infections by taking these simple precautions:

  • Exercise proper hygiene and regularly inspect your feet and toes.

  • Keep your feet clean and dry.

  • Wear shower shoes in public facilities whenever possible.

  • Clip your nails straight across so that the nail does not extend beyond the tip of the toe.

  • Use a quality foot powder - talcum, not cornstarch - in conjunction with shoes that fit well and are made of materials that breathe.

  • Avoid wearing excessively tight hosiery, which promotes moisture. Socks made of synthetic fiber tend to "wick" away moisture faster than cotton or wool socks, especially for those with more active life styles.

  • Disinfect home pedicure tools and don't apply polish to nails suspected of infection.

Depending on the type of infection you have, over-the-counter liquid antifungal agents, while sometimes effective, may not prevent a fungal infection from recurring. A topical or oral medication may need to be prescribed, and the diseased nail matter and debris removed by a process called debridement.

In some cases, surgical treatment is prescribed, during which the infected nail is removed. Permanent removal of a chronically painful nail, which has not responded to any other treatment, permits the fungal infection to be cured, and prevents the return of a deformed nail.