Types Of Toenail Problems

By Wendy Innes. May 7th 2016

Toenail problems are very common, though most people are reluctant to admit that they have one. Most are easily treatable at home, but they should be taken seriously because they can also be a sign of something else. If you're looking for solutions to toenail problems, you've come to the right place.

Types Of Toenail Problems

There are three types of common toenail problems. They are:

  • Ingrown Toenails
  • Toenail Fungus
  • Toenail Trauma

Ingrown toenails are more common in women who wear tight fitting high heels, but they can happen to anyone. They are the result of nails that haven't been trimmed properly and when tight shoes are worn, the resulting pressure causes the side of the nail to press painfully into the skin, resulting in redness, swelling and sometimes drainage. Ingrown toenails can become infected if left untreated, in addition to being extremely painful.

Toenail fungus is another common problem that can affect anyone, but it is most common in those who are predisposed to athlete's foot, because the same fungus that causes athlete's foot also causes the infection in toenails.

Toenail trauma is very common and can be the result of ill-fitting shoes or injury. This can be result in something called "black toenail" or a subungual hematoma. This is the same thing that happens when a person injures their finger and their fingernail turns black.

Signs Of A Bigger Problem

Toenail problems can be a sign of a bigger problem. For instance:

  • A nail that cups inward like a spoon may be a sign of iron deficiency.
  • A nail that is pitted or thick may be a sign of psoriasis.
  • Recurring ingrown toenails may be a sign of diabetes complications or circulatory problems.

Those who have recurring toenail problems should speak to their doctor, as it could be a sign that there is a larger problem.


There are a number of things that can cause toenail problems, but the most common are ill-fitting shoes, injury to the toenail or infection from a fungus.

Women in particular seem to have more problems with ingrown toenails because the trend in women's dress shoes is a narrow, pointed toe box, which can cause the toes, and subsequently the toenails, to be squished together, forcing the sides and corners of the toenails into the skin of the toe. However, this doesn’t mean that men are immune. In fact, men who frequently wear tight fitting athletic shoes have similar problems.

Also, those with diabetes or circulatory problems frequently experience problems with ingrown toenails, often because of decreased feeling in the feet. They simply can't feel the pain of ingrown toenails like everyone else.

Toenail fungus is the result of a fungal infection. Everyone carries fungus on the surface of their body, but in the right set of environmental conditions, that fungus can begin to grow out of control. The fungus belongs to a family of mold-like fungi called dermatophytes. Typically, these fungi cause no problems, unless given a warm, dark, moist environment in which to grow, such as inside shoes.

Just as the name implies, toenail trauma is any injury that occurs to the toenail. This can be something as simple as wearing ill-fitting shoes too long or stubbing one's toe. The results can vary but often subungual hematoma, or "black toenail" can result. If the toenail does turn black, it will eventually grow out and fall off.


The treatment for common toenail problems depends on the cause.

Ingrown toenails can be treated by trimming the toenail properly and removing the offending part. For those who aren’t comfortable with removing an ingrown toenail on their own, a pedicurist can do it for them. If the ingrown toenail has become infected, treatment can be a little trickier, but still easily handled at home.

If the nail is infected, soaking the nail in warm water can help soften the nail and allow it to be removed easier. Once the nail is removed, the skin affected should be thoroughly cleaned and treated with an anti-bacterial ointment. In severe cases, oral antibiotics may be required.

Toenail fungus can also be easily treated at home, though it can be difficult to get rid of. There are a number of over-the-counter remedies for toenail fungus, but in order for them to be effective, the directions must be followed exactly. There are also a number of home remedies for toenail fungus that are effective as well.

Toenail trauma doesn't really require much treatment at all. Over time, the nail will grow out and fall off. If the nail is blistered, the nail can be drained, but it's best to consult a doctor for this as there is a risk for infection.

Toenail problems can cause unsightly toes, but they generally are not serious. However, for those who are diabetic, have circulatory problems or paralysis of the lower extremities, then any problem with the feet needs to be addressed by a doctor. While toenail problems may seem like something simple, for certain individuals, they could be a sign of a larger, more serious problem.


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