You may not spend much time thinking about your toenails, but problems with them may indicate other health issues. Since toenails are located at one of the far points of the circulatory system, they can signal the presence of systemic diseases and other conditions. They may also experience localized problems that slow growth or deform the nail as it grows.
Several different types of diseases can affect the toenails. Psoriasis sufferers often have increased nail thickness and growth problems that create pits in the nails. People with iron-deficiency anemia may develop nails that round inward, not outward. Fungal infections may cause the nail to distort, thicken and grow incorrectly. People who've had serious illnesses may find their nails have white lines across them, indicating a period of slow growth.
The toenails grow constantly, but different conditions cause them to grow in different ways. For instance, if a person has an excessive amount of thyroid hormone in their system, they may have extremely quick-growing toenails. People recovering from an injury may also have problems with fast growth. Low levels of certain hormones may result in slow or inconsistent growth.
Nail growth problems can occur in people of both sexes and all ages, but are common in older people and those with poor circulation. Since treatment of nail problems may require partial or total removal of the nail, and since other treatments often affect coordination, older people and people with disabilities should see a professional to deal with their nail problems.
It's possible to treat some types of toenail growth problems at home. Infected toenails can be soaked in salt water and bandaged, and medicated soaks may help fungal infections. Always discuss serious changes with a doctor, though. Keep your nails clean, trim them regularly and avoid wearing tight or pointed shoes to prevent ingrown nails and other deformities not caused by disease.
Toenail growth problems may look relatively minor, but they may signal a much more serious problem. Thyroid problems, anemia and even heart conditions can cause problems in nail growth. Untreated toenail growth problems could lead to worsening physical condition. Even if the trouble with your nail growth is only in the toe, poor treatment could result in pain, infection and damage to your foot.