If you're experiencing a toenail condition, it's important to identify the cause in order to find the best course of action. Toenail conditions such as bacterial infections, fungal infections, or ingrown toenails can all be troublesome, causing pain and discomfort.
When a toenail is ingrown, it is curved and grows into the skin, usually at the nail borders (the sides of the nail). This digging in of the nail irritates the skin, often creating pain, redness, swelling, and warmth in the toe.
If an ingrown nail causes a break in the skin, bacteria may enter and cause an infection in the area, which is often marked by drainage and a foul odor. However, even if the toe is not painful, red, swollen, or warm, a nail that curves downward into the skin can progress to an infection.
Toenails will often become thick as an individual grows older. Thickening may also occur as a result of trauma to the toenail, such as when it repeatedly hits the end of a shoe that is too short. Sometimes when something is dropped on the toenail, the nail will fall off. When a new toenail grows back, it will often be thicker than it was previously.
Thick toenails can also be seen in individuals with nail fungus (onychomycosis), psoriasis, and hypothyroidism. It is important to get a proper diagnosis for treatments and causes.
A black, purple or brownish discoloration under or involving a toenail is frequently due to trauma to the toenail, such as when something is dropped on the toe. The color results from a blood clot or bleeding under the nail and may involve the entire nail or just a small portion of it. This can be very painful when the entire nail is involved and may need medical attention to relieve the pressure caused by bleeding under the toenail.
Although it is very rare, a more serious cause of black toenails is malignant melanoma. Since early diagnosis and treatment of melanoma improves the chances for a good outcome, it is important that all black toenails be evaluated early.
Fungus of the toenails is a common problem that can affect people of all ages, although it most commonly affects individuals who are older.
Toenail fungus often begins as an infection in the skin in the form of athlete's foot. Over time, it grows underneath the nail and causes changes to its appearance, such as a yellow or brownish discoloration. It can also cause thickening and deformity of the toenail.