Toenail Problems

You can have various types of toenail issues.
You can have various types of toenail issues. (Image: foot image by Ingrid Walter from

Issues can develop with your toenail for a variety of reasons. Your toenail consists of a protein known as keratin, which develops in layers and hardens. This hardening acts as a protective barrier for your toe. When your toenail is healthy, the nail will be smooth. If you develop a discoloration of the toenail or around your toenail, this can be a sign of something serious. In some cases, treatment may require partial or total toenail removal. If you develop an infection, antibiotics are necessary.

Ingrown Toenail

An ingrown toenail occurs when part of the toenail grows into the fleshy part of the affected toe. An ingrown toenail can become inflamed, swollen, red and painful. Infections can develop from an ingrown toenail. According to the Mayo Clinic, having a circulatory disease (such as heart disease) or diabetes gives you a higher chance of developing complications from an ingrown toenail. An injury to your toe, wearing tight shoes, or trimming your toenail to the quick can cause an ingrown toenail.

Toenail Fungus

Fungus that develops in your toenail can cause the nail to become crusty and discolored. Initially a fungal infection in your toenail will appear as a small white or yellow spot. The infected toenail will eventually become brittle and crumble. A condition known as onycholysis can also occur. Onycholysis is the separation of the toenail from the nail bed. Onycholysis can cause pain and a smelly odor around the toenail. Toenail fungus treatments include oral anti-fungal medications, topical medications, anti-fungal toenail laquer or surgery to remove the nail.


While a paronychia infection can be caused by bacteria, an infection can also be caused by the herpes virus. You can develop inflammation, the skin breaking away from the toenail and pain. Being exposed to moisture constantly or for extended periods of time can cause paronychia to develop. Paronychia can be either acute (develops for a short time) or chronic (the infection occurs often). Treatments include antibiotics, anti-fungal medications, drainage of the infected skin and topical medications.

Psoriatic Nails

Psoriatic nails develop due to psoriasis. Psoriasis occurs when skin cells grow rapidly. An affected toenail can become pitted, discolored, detached or may fall off entirely. According to Skincare Physicians, if you have a psoriatic nail, you should avoid an injury to the afflicted nail as this can exacerbate your psoriasis. Topical ointments, light therapy and oral medications may be administered to treat symptoms.


Many toenail problems can be avoided. Thoroughly cleaning and drying your feet can prevent the development of fungal growth and infections. Always wear dry socks and shoes. When you trim your toenails, cut them straight across. This will prevent the toenail from extending toward the flesh of your toe. Don't wear tight hosiery, which can trap in moisture. Wear socks made of synthetic fibers to help pull away moisture from your feet and toes. Always clean your pedicure tools after use.

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