When you get embarrassed, your face can turn pink. You can be green with envy, green behind the gills, feeling blue, or seeing red, none of which are much cause for concern. However, if your toenails turn black, that’s a different story.
What’s Behind the Blackness?
Black toenails can occur for a number of reasons, but the most common is trauma, sudden or over time. Basically, when a large object falls on your toe, or it is exposed to repeated stress, blood collects under the nail causing it to appear discolored. As the blood pools, it can create an enormous amount of pressure, making the condition not only unsightly but painful, too. Luckily there are ways you can treat a black toenail to alleviate the pressure and minimize pain. Better yet, there are things you can do to prevent the problem from happening in the first place.
Also referred to as subungual hematoma, black toenails can happen to anyone. However, athletes—specifically runners—are most prone to the problem. The repetitive pounding runners do with their feet can result in toes smashing against the front of their shoes over and over again. This is especially true if you run on hilly terrain, or are training at a high intensity level. Logging less miles, choosing flatter paths, and wearing shoes with adequate toe room are all ways to counteract the condition.
Black Be Gone
Often times a black toenail will fall off on its own and a new nail will eventually replace it. However, if your toenail turns black and the pressure is causing you pain, a visit to Sierra Foot & Ankle is in order. Treating a black toenail can range from penetrating the nail to drain the blood and reduce pressure, to removing the nail completely and treating the nail bed beneath. It depends on the extent of the problem.
Keeping in the Clear
There are steps you can take to keep your toenails as clear and healthy as possible. First, refrain from walking barefoot and be careful while lifting or moving heavy objects. Make sure that your shoes fit well and provide plenty of wiggle room for your toes. Trim nails straight across and not too short—they should be even with the tips of your toes. Finally, cleanliness is key. Keep your feet and nails washed and dried, and wear clean socks too!
Ruling out Other Reasons
While this injury is most often the result of trauma, there are other causes to consider. The discoloration could be the result of a fungal infection. If this is the case, you may also notice a discharge and foul odor. Eliminating the fungus will in turn alleviate the symptoms. This can be done with topical or oral medications, or with laser therapy. Another possibility for your black toenail is melanoma—a dangerous cancer. This is rare, but if you notice blackness under your nail that doesn’t seem to be going away, it is vital that you visit us right away—just to be on the safe side. We can determine the cause behind your condition and the appropriate treatment necessary.
If want to learn more about black toenails and what you can do to treat them, do not hesitate to give us a call. You can reach us at (775) 783-8037, or visit us in Carson City or Gardnerville, NV. We also serve the communities of Reno, Gardnerville Ranchos, and Minden. Victoria L. Melhuish, DPM and the expert staff at Sierra Foot & Ankle can help keep your toes, feet, and ankles in tip-top shape!