Thick Toenail: Cause and TreatmentA thick toenail can be a common occurrence if you are a dancer, a soccer player or an athlete. You may have unknowingly injured your toenail or damaged its root at some point of time leading to temporary thickening of your toenail. However, any severe injury during your play or performance may even cause permanent thickening of your toenail. A thick toenail can make women feel embarrassed when they wish to show-off their beautifully pedicured toes and stylish sandals. It may even cause pain and discomfort to men who need to wear closed shoes for a long period of time. Thick toenails are also common amongst elderly, diabetic patients and those with circulation problems or a weak immune system.
Causes of Thick Toenails
A thick toenail can be caused due to various factors. Though men are more prone to getting thick toenails due to their closed footwear and a neglecting attitude towards daily foot-care, women can get thick toenails, too. Toenails also thicken with age. An above 60 adult is thus more likely to develop thick toenails.
The cause of this type of a toenail condition can be fungal infection, inadequate nutrition and poor health, skin conditions like psoriasis and eczema, injury or nail trauma, genetics, as well as lack of foot-care and daily hygiene.
The most common cause of a thick toenail is fungal infection. A toenail fungus infection, also called onychomycosis or paronychia, which occurs under the nail bed or at the root of the toenail, can cause thickening and discoloration, and gradual nail disintegration. Microscopic fungus accumulation under the toenail or on the toenail itself can show symptoms like turning the nail yellowish or brownish in color and thickening it in texture. This may gradually lead to pain and nail distortion. The toenail may chip-off or separate from the nail-bed altogether.
Another cause of thick toenails is inadequate nutrition. If you are always on the run, it is likely that you are in the habit of skipping daily meals which may lead to inadequate calorie intake and nutritional deficiencies, causing nail problems. Sometimes due to your poor health, your body may also be incapable of proper digestion and absorption of nutrients in the body.
Systemic Diseases and Skin Problems
Thick toenails can also be caused by skin conditions like psoriasis and eczema. If these types of skin diseases occur around the nail area they can lead to skin inflammation and irritation. Thus the tissues at the nail root can get inflamed too, causing a thick toenail. It may also occur due to the occurrence of other systemic diseases like rheumatoid arthritis, cardiovascular disease, cancer, etc.
A nail injury can happen unknowingly to athletes and dancers at any point of their career, which in turn may lead to thickening of toenails. Sports persons who experience repeated injury to their nails can permanently damage them. Permanent thickening of toenails can also occur due to the occurrence of a nail trauma caused by dropping of a heavy substance like a hammer on the toe.
Other causes of thick toenails are genetics and unhealthy foot-conditions. Improper foot-care and poor-fitted footwear can lead to various nail problems. If you do not clean your feet or change your socks daily or walk bare-footed on wet public areas, you are likely to incur a bacterial or fungal infection, leading to nail thickening and other problems. If you do not trim your nails properly and wear shoes that are too tight or too loose, you may cause the nail to pressurize and dig into your skin, causing nail problems, too.
Treatments of Thick Toenails
A thick toenail can be treated according to the cause that has led to such a condition. Such a nail condition requires immediate attention and treatment to stop further aggravation of the situation.
If the thickening is due to fungal or bacterial infection, you may seek medical help for topical or oral anti-fungal medications. You may also try home remedies like soaking your feet in warm water mixed with natural essential oils like tea tree oil, oregano oil, lavender oil, Listerine mouthwash, Vicks, etc. These natural solutions effectively soak into the thick toenails and penetrate down through the skin layers to offer permanent cure. Latest laser treatments also offer effective solution to thick toenails.
If the cause of thick toenails is inadequate nutrition, you must improve your lifestyle and eat nutritional meals at regular intervals and include adequate fruits and vegetables in your diet. You can also include daily supplements into your diet, especially wheatgrass, which can meet your daily nutritional needs and prevent toenail thickening.
When the cause of toenail infection is systemic disease or skin disease, the treatment must invariably include diagnosis of the particular disease and its relevant medical treatment, before addressing the nail problem.
Again, if the toenail thickening is due to age or traumatic injuries, the doctor may treat it by reducing the nail plate or completely removing the nail from its root.
Regardless of the relevant cause of thick toenails, this nail problem can be cured and prevented by careful filing and trimming. However as your affected toenail has become considerably thick, a nail trimmer alone is incapable of accomplishing the task effectively. You may need a nail file or emery board and nippers. You can trim thick toenails in the following manner.
- Soak your feet, specially your toenails, in warm soapy water for about 10 to 15 minutes to soften them.
- Pat dry the toenails completely.
- Use a nail file or emery board to file the nail surface gently. This will make the nail thinner and easier to trim.
- Use a nail trimmer to trim the toenail straight across from one corner to the other. This will prevent splitting or chipping.
However you must remember to take certain precautions while trimming your toenail. You must not use cuticle pushers which can disturb the natural barrier and help in introduction of potential pathogens. If you are diabetic or have poor circulation or reduced sensation, you must consult a podiatrist or physician before undertaking any method to treat a thick toenail.