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Painful toenail

A painful toenail is often ignored by the person suffering from it until the pain becomes excruciating or it prevents the person from doing simple everyday activities. Painful toenail most of all affects walking, which can become difficult.

The causes of painful toenail range from very simple and obvious to more serious, like an underlying condition that requires immediate medical treatment.

Ingrown toenail

Ingrown toenail is an annoying, frustrating and painful problem that affects many people. For some, it is a hereditary problem. Children of people who have had ingrown nails at some point in their life will be more prone to the same problem.

Ingrown nails can also be caused by gradual degenerative processes in which the cells that produce the nail, called nail matrix, are damaged.

An injury or trauma, like a heavy object falling on the nail, can push the nail towards the surrounding skin. Ingrown nails can result from fungal infections, poorly fitting shoes and bruising, but also from the way a person clips his or her nails. The correct way to clip, trip or file a nail is straight, and making a round shape can lead to ingrown nails.

Whatever its cause is, an ingrown nail can become infected and very painful. This problem requires treatment, which can be done at home, in milder cases, or at the doctor’s office.

The part of the nail that is pushing against the surrounding skin needs to be removed and the are must be properly cleaned and treated with an antibiotic ointment.

In more severe cases, the offending nail border must be completely removed. This must be done by a medical professional. These procedures are usually very effective and relatively painless, as they are performed with local anesthetic.

Fungal infection

Fungal infections of the feet are not rare. They are called “athlete’s foot”. Fungus is very persistent and it requires a long treatment, prescribed and controlled by a doctor. when fungus penetrates the nail it leads to discoloration, vertical stripes that may break, nail becomes brittle and thick. It is treated with antifungal ointments and in some cases the patient must take oral antifungal medications.

Bruising and loosening

Many athletes and people who are physically active have problems with nail bruising. This is usually due to poorly fitting shoes. The shoe must not be too tight or too big. Recurring low-grade injury to the nail leads to bruising and consequently the nail loosens and may fall off.

Smaller bruises usually heal on their own but if the bruise covers one third or half of the nail, it needs to be checked by a doctor.

Other causes

Less commonly, painful toenail can be result of a more serious underlying condition. It can be a skin condition like psoriasis, but it can also be melanoma. It is rare for melanoma to appear under the nail but it can happen so it is recommended to see a doctor if there is pigmentation of the nail and the skin surrounding it.

The cause of painful toenail can also be a soft tissue tumor, a cyst or nerve damage.

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