Your toenails are meant to protect your toes and the skin beneath, but even though they appear hard and tough, they do have a few vulnerabilities.
Several different nail disorders can attack your toenails and make them look or feel awful. At Utah Musculoskeletal Specialists in Salt Lake City, Utah, our podiatrists, Dr. Daniel Preece and Dr. Darren Groberg, specialize in spotting the many types of nail disorders and treating them effectively so your bare feet look and feel fantastic again.
Here are some of the most common toenail problems and the symptoms they cause.
Your toenails are made of keratin, which is the same protein found in your hair and skin. It’s fairly resilient, but injury, friction, excess heat and moisture, and even certain medical conditions can lead to problems. One of the most common culprits is fungal infection.
The list of possible causes of fungal infections in the toenail range from a weakened immune system to injury to poor circulation. These are just a few of the many potential conditions that can introduce a fungal organism into your toenail.
But regardless of the cause, the symptoms of fungal toenails are generally the same. They are:
- Thick, but weak and crumbly
We can treat your fungal infection with topical or oral medication or even surgery, if necessary.
When your toenail takes a detour and starts to grow into and under your skin, you have an ingrown toenail. Although typically the result of wearing shoes that are too small or cutting your nails too short, sometimes genetics, injury, and infections can also cause ingrown toenails.
You’ll know it when you see it, because of its characteristic signs:
- Red, inflamed skin on the side of the nail
- Pain and soreness
- Increased pain when walking
- Pus or blood oozing from the site
Antibiotics often clear up the infection that goes along with your ingrown toenail, and warm foot soaks ease the discomfort until the nail grows out. But if it’s severe, our team can perform a minor procedure to coax the nail out of your skin.
Whether you kicked the chair leg, dropped a brick on your toe, wore ill-fitting shoes, or got a less-than-professional pedicure, you may have damaged your toenail.
In this case, you’ll see:
- A torn or split nail
- A dark red or purple spot under the nail
- Detachment or a hanging nail
Depending on the extent of your injury and your symptoms, we may need to drain the blood to prevent excess pressure from building up under the nail, or remove the nail to allow proper healing.
Not to be confused with hammertoe, a condition that contracts the joint in your toe and bends it at a right angle, clubbed toenails affect only the nail and deform it’s appearance.
Classic signs include nails that:
- Curve downward
- Lift from the nail bed
- Leave space between your nail and the cuticle
- Have softened nail beds
- Have a swollen or bulging toe tip
Clubbed toenails may be a symptom of underlying medical conditions, such as gastrointestinal disorders, heart disease, or lung problems. In this case, it’s best to consult your physician about your overall health while we care for your toenails.
Normal nails are slightly pinkish over the nail bed with a white crescent shape at the top. But if you see white spots or stripes, where it should be rosy, you may have leukonychia.
This abnormal white hue can stem from something as simple as biting your nails to a serious cause like a systemic illness. Our team can get to the bottom of your leukonychia and help you understand your treatment options.
Most nail disorders are preventable or treatable, so there’s no reason to live with distorted or painful toenails. As summer approaches, you may be wondering how to clear up your toenail problem before you break out your sandals. Our team at Utah Musculoskeletal Specialists is here to help. Call us at 801-285-6332 or book an appointment online today.