Toenail Abnormalities: What They May Mean

Toenail Abnormalities: What They May Mean

You might not spend very much time scrutinizing your toenails, but it’s a good idea to give them a look-over once in a while. The fact is, there are quite a few conditions that can affect your toenails. Paying attention to changes in your nails can allow you to seek treatment for issues before they turn into major problems. Here’s a list of some of the common abnormalities in your toenails that could signal more serious health problems.

Toenails Lifting From Their Beds

The next time you trim your nails, take a look at the white part at the top of your toenails. If it seems to be slowly creeping downward toward the base of your nail, you might be experiencing onycholysis, a condition that causes the toenails to lift from their beds. As the nail separates from the nail bed, the separated part turns white. It can also become discolored if dirt or other debris gets underneath. Also, if water and other moisture accumulates underneath the nail, you could end up with a bacterial or fungal infection.

Some causes of onycholysis are innocuous; you might have taken up running and your new shoes might be too tight, affecting both big toenails. Or perhaps you stubbed your toe and damaged the nail of just that one toe. If you don’t remember hurting yourself or if the condition is affecting several nails, however, the onycholysis could be indicative of thyroid disease or a skin condition such as psoriasis.

You should see your general practitioner or a podiatrist, like one at The Foot Clinic, if you notice your nails lifting from their beds. In the meantime, keep the area dry with a hair dryer after showers, keep your nails well-trimmed and wear shoes that won’t squeeze your toes, recommends LiveStrong.com.

Colorful Toenails

In general, your toenails should be pinkish with white tips. This varies depending on your skin color. Some people have lunulas, which look like small half-moons on their big toes and occasionally on a few of the smaller toes as well. When you take a good look at your toenails and see some unexpected nail colors without the benefit of having had a pedicure recently, this might be a sign of medical problems.

Thick, yellowed nails can indicate a fungal infection. Fungal infections could also turn your toenails greenish or brownish. Most of the time, toenails infected with fungus will be sore to the touch and sensitive to hot water. In rare instances, yellow nails could indicate a lung problem.

Toenails that are white all over (but not lifting) could be indicative of anemia (low iron) or liver problems. White spots on the nails usually mean that your had some minor trauma, such as stubbing the toe or dropping something on the nail; these marks grow out as your nail grows. If you have large white areas, however, you should see a doctor.

Dark spots or streaks that are not associated with an injury should be evaluated promptly, particularly if they appear and then grow or change shape. Some forms of skin cancer develop under the toenails, and dark areas on one or more nails could be one symptom.

Ridges on the Toenails

Reach down and feel your big toenails. In most people, the nails will be smooth. Some will find ridges on the nails running either from the base to the tip of the nail or across the width of the nail. Many times, ridges are harmless, particularly if they’ve always been there.

If new ridges appear, however, that could indicate a problem. Ridges running from side to side could be a sign of a skin problem such as eczema. Ridges running from top to bottom might be a symptom of circulatory problems. If you notice new ridges, make an appointment with your doctor to have them checked out.

Those with diabetes or circulatory problems should see a podiatrist regularly. He or she will evaluate the health of your feet and nails. Even if you don’t have these conditions, it’s a good idea to take a look at your toes now and then to see if there are any changes that should be seen by a doctor.