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Richardson Podiatry Center

Black Toenails

Your body has many ways to indicate that something is wrong, like when tissue changes color or appears different than it usually looks. Such is the case with black toenails. When you observe a discolored toenail, Richardson Podiatry Associates is your resource for finding the care you need.

Various Causes of Black Toenails

Causes of black toenails

The reason for certain conditions can be rather straightforward, but discolored nails could have several causes:

  • Injury or physical trauma to a nail or toe. This is the most likely cause of this condition, with the discoloration resulting from bruising or blood pooled under a toenail (subungual hematoma) in response to physical trauma. Specific causes of trauma are auto accidents, stubbing a toe, and dropping something heavy on the foot.
  • Repeated trauma. Instead of a singular event, this injury is often developed by runners when a toenail repeatedly hits the front or top of a running shoe.
  • Footwear that doesn’t fit correctly. For some patients, shoes that are too tight or too short go hand-in-hand with repeated trauma to cause this problem.
  • Fungal infection. The most noticeable symptom of fungal toenails tends to be discoloration of the nail tissue.
  • Malignant melanoma. Fortunately, this is rare, but melanoma is a serious condition when present. For this reason, discolored toenails should be checked out at our Richardson, TX office.

Black Toenail Symptoms

The most obvious symptom of this particular condition is the discoloration of the toenail or nailbed. Depending on the cause, the nail can be reddish, purplish, brownish, or even black. In addition to abnormal nail color, a patient can experience pain, foul odor, and discharge emerging from underneath the nail. When redness, strong odor, discharge, and swelling are present, it is often an indication of an infection.

Another symptom that sometimes accompanies a discolored nail is separation of the nail from its nailbed. This most often is seen when the condition resulted from physical trauma, and the blood pooling under the nail creates enough force to cause separation.

When a Nail Falls Off

The first action to take when a nail detaches is to smooth out sharp edges by filing them down. This keeps the nail from becoming caught on anything and tearing further. If the tear is large, you can either leave it be or trim off the detached portion, depending on how comfortable you are with doing so. Either way, you should soak the toe in cold water for roughly twenty minutes before carefully drying it off and applying an antibiotic ointment. Once that is done, be sure to cover the nail with a clean bandage.

In time, the nail tissue will grow back, but you need to reduce the risk of infection until it does. This is best done by keeping the nailbed dry, clean, and covered in antibiotic ointment and fresh bandages. When a bandage does become wet or dirty, replace the old one as soon as you can. During this time, watch out for common infection signs, which include warmth, swelling, pain, pus, and redness. Contact our Richardson, TX office as soon as you observe any of these.

Black Toenail Prevention

You can reduce your risk and prevent this injury by:

  • Wearing shoes that fit correctly. If your toes cannot wiggle and there is less than a thumb’s width of space between the front of the shoe and your longest toe, find a different pair.
  • Wearing protective footwear. When your job often has you moving heavy items, invest in a good pair of steel-toed work boots or safety shoes.
  • Keeping toenails trimmed properly. This means clipping them so they are even with the edge of the toes and are straight across (instead of being rounded off).
  • Keeping your feet dry and clean. Following this practice will reduce your risk of fungal infection that causes discoloration in the nail tissue.

Top Toenail Treatment in Richardson, TX

Found a discolored nail on any of your toes? Come into our Richardson, TX foot doctor office and have us examine it for you. We will provide any care you might need, so contact Richardson Podiatry Associates by calling (972) 690-5374 or scheduling your appointment online.