Common Nail Problems
An ingrown toe nail is among one of the most common nail problems. This problem is the result of the nail growing into the skin that surrounds it. This usually occurs on either side of the big toe. Common causes include improper trimming, genetic nail deformities, injuries, fungal infections, or pressure.
Ingrown nails may cause pain at the tip of the toe or all the way to the base of the toe. The pain is often worse while walking. An ingrown nail may also lead to infection, inflammation, or a more serious condition. If it’s infected, you might see pus or redness.
To determine the extent of your problem, your podiatrist examines and possibly palpates (presses) the painful area. If other problems are suspected, blood tests, cultures, or X-rays may be done as well.
If the nail is not infected, your podiatrist may trim the corner of it to help relieve your symptoms. He or she may need to remove one side of your nail back to the cuticle. The base of the nail is then treated with a chemical to keep the nail from becoming ingrown again. Severe infections or ingrown nails may require antibiotics and temporary or permanent removal of a portion of the nail. To prevent pain, a local anesthetic may be used in these procedures. This treatment is usually done at your podiatrist’s office.
Abnormally thick or crumbling nails may be caused by injuries, pressure from shoes, fungal infections, or conditions such as diabetes, psoriasis, or vascular disease. Eventually, the nail may loosen and fall off.
Along with thickening, the nail may appear ridged, brittle, or yellowish. You may also feel pain when pressure is put on the nail.
Since thickened nails may be a symptom of an underlying medical condition and it is important for your podiatrist to look at your medical history for possible related problems. To check for a fungal infection, a culture may be done. The thickness and color of the nail are also examined carefully to determine possible infections, other conditions or other common nail problems.
If the nail is not infected, your podiatrist may be able to thin it by trimming, filing, or grinding the nail. If a fungal infection is present, oral or topical antifungal medications may be needed. This can help prevent ulcerations under the nail while keeping the fungus from spreading to other nails. If pain is still present, the entire nail or part of it can be surgically removed. Do not remove the nail by yourself.
A black-and-blue nail is usually caused by sudden or repetitive injury to a toe and is a common nail problem. This might occur during sports that involve running or stopping quickly. The injury may also result from a heavy object falling on a toe. If your toe is black and blue, but not injured, see your doctor immediately.
The big toe is most often affected. Bruised, broken blood vessels cause the black-and-blue colors under the nail. If the condition is the result of a sudden injury, pain may be severe.
To evaluate your condition, your podiatrist may talk with you about your symptoms and physical activities. He or she may palpate (press) the area at the end of the toe to determine the extent of pain. Your toe and foot are examined for any signs of infection. If a fracture or a bone spur is suspected, x-rays may be needed. If small black spots are present under the nail, other problems may need to be ruled out.
If pain is severe, the nail may be removed, or a hole may be drilled in the nail to allow drainage, which relieves the pressure. A local anesthetic may be used or pain may be relieved with prescription medications, or by soaking or icing the area. If pain is not severe, you may not need treatment. The nail can be thinned or left alone to fall off and an new nail should grow to replace it. The nail may need to be treated with anti-fungal medication to prevent possible infections and deformity.
Wearing the right shoes and trimming your nails properly can prevent many nail problems. To help avoid infection, keep your feet clean and dry. If you have diabetes, talk with your podiatrist before performing any home-care.
To make sure that you are wearing the right shoes, get your feet measured because your size may change as you age. Wear shoes that are supportive and roomy enough for your toes to wiggle. Look for shoes made of natural materials, such as leather, which allow your feet to breathe.
To avoid problems from improper trimming, trim your toenails straight across without cutting down into the corners. If you can’t trim your own nails, ask your podiatrist to do so for you.
If you have any of these Common Nail Problems, please be sure to make an appointment to avoid infections or pain.