Toenails can develop a number of uncomfortable conditions and problems. One of the most painful ones is an ingrown nail. If it is not treated, it can develop into a toe infection.
Some people suffer from ingrown nails more that others. They have to be careful when they clip the nail. It should be cut straight from side to side, without forming a round shape. They also have to be careful when choosing footwear. Shoes must not be tight at the top, there must be enough room to wiggle all toes.
Nails can become weak due to poor nutrition, usually a Vitamin C deficiency. In these cases, a proper diet must include sources of Vitamin C such as broccoli, cantaloupe, oranges, strawberries, green pepper, and cabbage.
Nail discoloration, or a blackened toe, is another problem that affects the toenail.
It happens when the blood accumulates underneath the nail. It can be a bruise as a result of stubbing or banging the toe against a hard surface. This problem usually goes away by itself, but it can be painful, especially when the nail touches the top of the shoe when walking.
If this happens, it helps to place a bandage around the toe to protect it. If discoloration persists, a doctor should be consulted. They can drill a small hole in the nail to drain the accumulated blood. This is done under local anaesthesia.
Discoloration can also be caused by aging or excessive use of nail polish. In this case, the problem is considered to be mostly aesthetic and can be solved with bleach treatments by a podiatrist.
Toenails that chip easily should be rubbed with petroleum jelly or lanolin every day to fortify them.
If a toenail separates from the bed due to injury, it should be covered with bandages in order to protect it from coming off completely. If this happens, the tender toe must be protected with bandages at all times, until the new nail grows out. This may take up to 6 months.
Onychomycosis is a fungal infection of the nail, also known as a ringworm of the nail.
It starts at the bottom of the nail and then progresses upwards until the whole nail becomes brown or dark yellow, thin and flaky. Fungus infection is a very persistent one, it may take up to one year to get rid of it. In case of ringworm of the nail, a doctor will prescribe antifungal medicine to be applied locally. The nail affected with fungus must be clipped as short as possible.
Older people sometimes develop toenails that are so thick and hard that they cannot be cut. If this happens, it is best to consult a professional who will file the nail with a special drill or remove the nail completely, of course under local anaesthetics.
Some toenail problems are side effects of conditions such as syphilis, tuberculosis, arthritis and psoriasis. In most cases, however, the problems can be prevented with proper hygiene, good eating habits, and comfortable footwear.