Black Toenails

Why do people get black toenails?

This is a common question that we get as podiatrists.  Black toenails are caused by injury to the skin under the nail which leads to bleeding.  When the blood dries it turns dark leading to a black toenail. It is like having a scab on the skin but it is under the toenail. The bleeding is usually not from a one time injury. Typically there is repetitive damage to the skin and nails during various activities like running, basketball, football and soccer to name a few.

black toenailsWhat causes Black Toenails?

Injury to the toe and toenail leading to black toenail can be caused in several ways. Your foot may be sliding forward in the shoe during intense activities leading to bleeding under the nail. A similar problem can be caused as your toe move upward as you run and tap the top of your shoe. In these cases the shoe may fit normally but there is excessive motion. Of course if your shoe is too tight or the wrong size, black toenails can certainly be a problem. When the black toenail becomes severe, you may lose your nail temporarily and it will grow back. It is possible for these nails to be painful but not in most cases.

While black toenails are not considered harmful, they cause nail damage that often attracts fungus and can lead to fungal infections of the toenails. This is why we recommend that you see your podiatrist to help avoid these difficult toenail infections. If you have diabetes or poor circulation you may also end up with more serious problems like an ulcer so seeing a podiatrist quickly is important to avoid further damage or bacterial infections.

How do we treat Black Toenails?

When we see black toenails we decide on different treatment options. If the nail is only partially attached, we will trim the nail back to avoid the nail catching on something and being torn off. It is recommended that you bring your shoes to your podiatrist to evaluate their fit. In addition and exam may reveal abnormal foot function and tightness of various muscles and tendons. In these cases we will consider using orthotic devices to allow for better foot function. We will also review stretches to help prevent abnormal motion of the foot and leg leading to your toes hitting the top of the shoes. We can also show you how to lock your shoes laces so that your foot doesn’t slide forward as easily.

If you have black toenails seek the care of a podiatrist. If you have diabetes or poor circulation please do not try to treat this yourself.

Content provided and written by Advanced Podiatry

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