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Protecting Your Protector

The main purpose of your toenails is to provide protection for your toes. When these toenails start being affected by issues like nail fungus and nail trauma, the nails will no longer be able to protect your toes like they’re supposed to. There’s many reasons why your nails can start experiencing issues, which can range from exposure to moisture and heat to friction caused by shoes.

Primary Toenail Problems 

While there are many problems that could affect your toenails, the main nail problems to look out for include the following. Each of these nail problems can cause significant problems with your health if you don’t have them diagnosed and treated early on.

  • Toenail fungus
  • Ingrown toenails
  • Toenail trauma
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Toenail Fungus 

Toenail fungus is a very common nail condition that’s most prevalent among individuals who are 70 years old or older. It begins with the development of a small spot just underneath the front of the toenail. This spot is usually yellow or white in color. If you don’t tend to this problem immediately, the fungus will continue to spread, which will invariably cause the affected toenail to thicken and become discolored. These nails can also start to fall apart as the condition progresses. Over time, it’s possible for the fungus to spread to surrounding toes.

If you feel as though you might be suffering from toenail fungus, look for any yellow or white discoloration below the toenail. Other symptoms of toenail fungus occur when the toenail smells poorly, becomes brittle, is misshapen, or thickens.

Ingrown Toenails

Ingrown toenails are relatively common, and can be surprisingly painful. This condition results from the corner of your toenail growing directly into the surrounding flesh, which can create a variety of problems until the condition has been treated and the nail properly heals.

When taking a look at ingrown toenails, the primary symptom with this condition is high amounts of pain just beside the rest of your toenail. This pain will worsen when you touch the sensitive area. Redness and swelling are also common until the condition has been treated.

When the ingrown nail is at its worst, it’s possible for pus to start leaking from the injured toenail. The symptoms associated with toenail trauma are numerous and depend on the type of trauma that’s occurred. The primary symptoms include pain, the presence of dark red spots below the nail, a torn nail, bleeding, and discoloration.

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Toenail Trauma

Toenail trauma refers to any kind of impact injury to the toe that has affected the nail. This type of trauma can also lead to the development of a subungual hematoma, which occurs when blood pools underneath the nail. When you’ve suffered from a trauma to your toenail, it’s important that the injury site is treated quickly to keep the effects of the trauma from worsening.

Causes for Toenail Problems

Understanding the causes of these nail problems may help you avoid them in the future. 

  • Toenail fungus is particularly common among people who walk barefoot in areas where other individuals with toenail fungus have been, which includes locker rooms and pools. In order to survive, fungi typically need to be in a damp and darkened environment, which means that you need to avoid wearing boots or shoes that are sweaty or have recently been in rain.
  • The causes of an ingrown toenail include cutting the toenails in a curve, having particularly large toenails, suffering from a separate injury to the toenail, or cutting the toenails shorter than you’re supposed to. 
  • The causes for toenail trauma are practically endless. These injuries can occur by stubbing one of your toes, wearing shoes that don’t fit properly, picking at your nails, dropping a heavy object on your foot, and much more.

Treating Nail Problems

The treatments that are used for toenail problems will be determined by the extent of the injury or condition and the type of problem or symptoms that you are experiencing.

If you’re suffering from toenail fungus, the most successful treatment option involves taking anti-fungal pills that will be prescribed to you. Taking anti-fungal pills will help the fungus to disappear completly (in anywhere from a few weeks to a couple of months). 

If you have an ingrown toenail and you’re unable to get rid of the ingrown nail yourself, the nail can be lifted or removed, which can be either a partial or complete removal depending on the severity of the ingrown nail. 

Minor toenail trauma (such as stubbing the toe or shutting a toe in a door) usually calls for medication only. More severe toe trauma (such as dropping something very heavy on your foot) will perhaps require surgery.

Be aware that toenail growth will most likely slow significantly after trauma. It may take six months to two years for the damaged toenail to fully grow back.

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Treating Nail Problems at Foot & Ankle Specialty Group

Whether your toenail conditions require an in-office treatment or a surgical solution, our team at Foot & Ankle Specialty Group has you covered. We are a modern, family-friendly podiatry office serving the Rancho Santa Margarita and Newport Beach area since 2001. Founded by American Board of Podiatric Surgery Fellow member Dr. Salma Aziz and with foot and ankle experts Dr. Petrina Yokay and Dr. Jessica Arneson, we are a professional, nurturing female doctor group serving families, individuals, and active people of all kinds. We follow up with care, and our practice is about getting people back to their activities and life.

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