Toenail problems

Toenail problems tend to be more common with advancing age. Problems include ingrown toenail, fungal infection and nail deformities. Professional care from your podiatrist can improve the health of your toenails.

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Toenail problems can affect people of all ages, but tend to be more common with advancing age. Causes of nail problems include trauma, ill-fitting shoes, poor circulation and infection. Problems with toenails can be successfully treated by a podiatrist.

Ingrown toenail

The most common problem treated by podiatrists is ingrown toenail. The big toe is particularly prone to this painful condition. Incorrect trimming technique, trauma (such as stubbing your toe), nails that naturally curve too sharply, or wearing tight shoes can cause an ingrown toenail. Treatment from a podiatrist depends on the severity of the injury, but may include removing the ingrown nail section using a local anaesthetic. Suggestions on how to prevent an ingrown toenail include trimming nails straight across rather than rounding off the edges, and wearing comfortable, well-fitting shoes that donít press on the toes.

Fungal infections

Symptoms of a nail with fungal infection include discolouration and thickening of the nail, and the separation of the nail from the nail bed. There may be a white, cheesy discharge. Without treatment, the nail bed itself can become infected. Treatment options include anti-fungal preparations and professional trimming, shaping and care of the nail by your podiatrist.

Inflammation of the skin alongside the nail

The skin lying alongside the nail can become infected with bacteria, typically Staphylococcus aureus. This infection is called paronychia. The symptoms include pain, redness and swelling around the cuticle, and perhaps a discharge of yellow or green pus. Acute cases can be treated with antibiotics. However, chronic paronychia is harder to treat. The nail distorts and discolours and the skin may lift at the site of infection. Sometimes, the inflammation spreads from one nail to another. A range of micro-organisms working together are responsible for chronic paronychia. Treatment includes keeping the feet as dry as possible, barrier creams, antiseptic lotions and anti-fungal preparations.

Deformed or brittle nails

A violent toe-stubbing, dropping a heavy object on the toe or some other trauma can injure the nail bed and cause the nail to grow in deformed ways. The nail may be thickened or ridged. Brittle nails are common in elderly people because of the tendency to poor circulation. Deformed or brittle nails can benefit from professional attention. Trimming, shaping and nail care from your podiatrist can improve the health of your nails.

Where to get help

  • Your doctor

  • Podiatrist

  • Australian Podiatry Association (Vic) Tel. (03) 9866 5906

Things to remember

  • Common toenail problems include ingrown toenail, fungal infections, inflammation of the skin alongside the nail, and nail deformities.

  • Toenail problems tend to be more common with advancing age.

  • Professional care from your podiatrist can improve the health of your nails.

 

 
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