People do a variety of things to their bodies to express themselves. Some use tattoos to turn their body into a living canvas. Others adorn their bodies with jewelry in pierced parts, like ears, noses, and eyebrows. A fairly common way of decorating the body is to paint fingernails and toenails in vibrant colors. Painting your nails black may be a fashion statement, but developing black toenails is an altogether different manner.
A Non-Fashion Statement from Your Body
Your body has various tricks to let you know that something is wrong. You experience shooting pain that comes with plantar fasciitis and swelling that accompanies an ankle sprain. Another indication that you have a health issue is tissue discoloration. When you develop black toenails, your body is drawing your attention to a problem.
In spite of the name, the actual color of your nails can range from brown to purple to red to black. The discoloration is due to subungual hematoma (blood pooling under the nail). The pooled blood can create pressure, which may lead to pain. Other signs that you may note include foul odor and discharge from underneath your affected nail.
Causes of Black Toenails
The most common cause of this condition is simply trauma or injury to your affected toe or nail. Runners will typically experience discolored toenails after long-distance races or routes that consist of a lot of downhill running. Some even consider a black toenail to be a “badge of honor” for the miles logged, but this issue is not a cause for celebration. The trauma sustained by a runner’s toenail often comes from constant rubbing of the toe against the front of a shoe.
In addition to running, other causes include dropping a heavy item on your foot, fungal infection, tight or ill-fitting shoes, and, in extremely rare circumstances, malignant melanoma. If you have developed a black toenail without an obvious traumatic incident, it is important to schedule an appointment with our office so that we can provide a diagnosis and hopefully rule out melanoma as the cause of your condition.
Black Toenail Treatment
No matter why you have developed a black toenail, it is a smart move to come in and see our foot specialists. In some cases, your toenail will simply fall off and then grow back, but there is a chance you may require medical care. If so, we will be able to administer any necessary treatment, which may include removing the nail, cleaning the area underneath, and draining the fluid.
Black toenails aren’t always serious medical issues, but it is better to avoid the risk that one could lead to infection or another complication. Also, you may be self-conscious about having a discolored nail and it could stop you from participating in warm weather activities that you enjoy. Fortunately, there are steps you can take to decrease the likelihood of developing one. These include:
- Trim your toenails properly, which means straight across and not too short. Besides preventing discoloration, this is a good tip for avoiding potentially painful ingrown nails.
- Wear shoes that fit you correctly. When your toes are pressed together it is a clear indication that you need to switch to shoes with a wider, deeper toe box. This tip will also help you prevent a variety of potential foot and ankle problems.
- Take care when moving or carrying heavy objects. If your job depends on this, be sure to protect your feet with steel-toed shoes or other protective footwear.
- Avoid developing a fungal infection by keeping your feet clean and dry, wearing clean socks, and alternating between two pairs of shoes to let them dry out completely between uses.
Whether you would like additional information about black toenails or need treatment for the condition, Shenandoah Podiatry is here for you. We offer accurate diagnoses and effective treatment for a wide range of foot and ankle issues you may experience. Don’t live with pain and discomfort! Call our Roanoke, VA office at (540) 904-1458, or use our online form to contact us today.