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We, as long-distance runners, have one problem in common, no matter in which part of the globe we reside. Whether we run on sand or trails or tracks, we face this problem regardless. You know what are we talking about, right? Toenail!
Toenails are thicker extensions of our skin’s top layer, and they’re formed of the same vital protein, keratin. The nail emerges from the matrix, a layer underneath the epidermis tightly linked to the blood vessel and nerve-rich nail bed underneath it.
Whether it’s rubbing against shoes, a stubbed toe, or the persistent presence of germs and fungus, your toenails are under a lot of strain (picture the environment inside a shoe). In light of these circumstances, there are three typical toenail issues that we frequently see.
Onychomycosis, often known as toenail fungus, is a slow-growing infection of the nail and the area underlying it.
Toenail Fungus Symptoms
Fungal infections typically start at the end of the nail and spread under it (where it gets trimmed). The following are the most typical alterations associated with toenail fungus infections:
Brown, white, or yellow discoloration underneath the nail
Nail thickening is a condition in which the nail becomes thicker.
A rise in white debris underneath the nail, which is keratin, a protein that gives skin and nails their shape.
The diseased section of the nail loosens or separates from the nail bed.
The nail appears to be crumbling.
White, powdery discoloration on top of the nail is a less common sign of infection.
Causes of Toenail Fungus
You might be shocked to find that the same fungi that cause athlete’s foot also cause toenail fungal infections. Those who are prone to athlete’s foot may also be prone to fungal infections in their toenails.
Toenail fungus may affect everyone, but it grows more common as people become older. Persons with specific disorders, such as diabetes and illnesses that impact limb circulation and people with weak immune systems, are more prone to fungal nail infections. Other aspects to consider are:
Hyperhidrosis, or a proclivity for sweaty feet, is a condition in which the feet sweat excessively.
Infections with fungi on the skin regularly
Shoe use causes trauma to the nail, creating a wet, dark, and warm habitat for fungus to grow.
Treatment of Toenail Fungus
Debridement, or cutting down and removing debris and the dead nail, is likely to be the first step in treatment in a podiatrist’s practice. This will assist in reducing the thickness of the nail and alleviate any discomfort caused by shoe use. Debridement may also help topical therapies work more effectively.
Antifungal drugs used orally and prescription-strength topical therapies may be recommended. However, owing to possible side effects and expense, oral antifungal medications are not always a choice for many people.
Toenail fungus can also be treated with a variety of over-the-counter topical medicines. These treatments, however, have limited efficacy in treating toenail fungus since the fungus lives deep within the nail and under it. This is especially true if the fungus has grown widely across the nail.
The good news is that there are alternative options for treating fungal nails, including a laser therapy that the FDA has approved.
When the edge of a toenail, generally the big toe, grows into the skin adjacent to it, it is termed an ingrown toenail (called the lateral nail fold).
Ingrown Toenail Symptoms
An ingrown toenail produces discomfort and swelling on the side of the toe. It might develop infected, resulting in redness, swelling, pain, warmth, and discharge. Because the ingrown portion of the nail lies below the skin, it usually is unnoticed.
Causes of Ingrown Toenail
The following factors increase a person’s risk of having an ingrown toenail:
Shoes or socks that don’t fit correctly
Toes with an unusual form
Trauma to the nails
Ingrown toenails in the family A family history of ingrown toenails
Infections with fungi
As you become older, you may have health issues such as poor leg circulation or lung illness.
Unless there is a suspicion of infection or if you have a medical condition like diabetes, nerve damage, or poor circulation, you can treat an ingrown toenail at home.
The first step in at-home care is to soak your foot in a room-temperature Epsom salt solution. Then, to reduce irritation, softly massage the side of your nail. Until the problem is resolved, avoid cutting your toenail and try wearing open shoes like sandals.
In addition, you may need to examine the fit and form of your shoes and socks to determine if they are the source of your recurrent problem. You may have to pick between attractive toes and cute shoes.
If your doctor detects an infection, an antibiotic may be prescribed. In addition, your doctor may need to remove a portion of your toenail or your entire toenail to relieve the irritation.
Trauma to the toenail might be chronic or stem from a recent accident.
Toenail Trauma Symptoms
Injury to the nail’s matrix, or growth center, can cause various alterations to the nail. Blood and bruises underneath the toenail, toenail thickening, and toenail loss are all possible changes.
Causes of Toenail Trauma
When walking or running, frequent rubbing against the shoe can cause toenail injuries. Your new shoes may be either tight or too loose, causing additional friction on your toe when you run. A sudden injury, such as stubbing your toe or dropping an object on it, can also cause it.
If any portion of the nail has come away due to trauma, it might lead to subsequent bacterial or fungal infection. The toenail may get darkly discolored as a result of this. Acute trauma can also cause a fracture of the bone underneath the nail, which is close to the nail.
Any changes in toenail color or loosening should be checked by a podiatrist or other health care practitioner. Black or brown discoloration may be indicators of skin cancer melanoma in rare situations, albeit this is uncommon.
Treatment of Toenail Trauma
Surgically removing a thick or otherwise diseased toenail will almost certainly not result in a healthy nail developing in its place. When a nail’s growth core (nail matrix) is injured, the nail typically thickens and becomes deformed.
Toenails that have been discolored or blackened as a result of a subungual hemorrhage are common. Due to bleeding underneath the nail, the entire nail or a small portion of it may appear black. The hematoma will usually heal on its own. However, it can sometimes result in the nail falling off.
Why do fungal infections on my toenails keep coming back?
According to some research, certain people are genetically predisposed to nail fungal infections. People with compromised immune systems are more likely to get recurrent illnesses. They can also indicate diabetes, which reduces blood supply to the foot and makes it more difficult for the body to fight the fungus.
Long Distance Running has few words for you
You may be embarrassed by the sight of your toenail if you have an issue with it. Or you could be concerned that whatever is wrong with your toenail is a symptom of an undiagnosed underlying health problem. Hopefully, this basic toenail knowledge can alleviate some of your anxieties and prepare you for your doctor’s appointment.