Treatments for Ingrown Toenails, Fungal Infections & Black Toenails
Healthy, pain-free toenails may be closer than you think!
Toenails are an essential part of overall foot health. Nails act as a protective layer on our toes and it's important to keep them in good condition.
Individuals with disabilities and the elderly may be unable to perform proper nail care, and should speak to a podiatrist about maintaining toenail health.
Ignoring nail pain can allow small problems to quickly escalate. Compensating for nail pain in how you walk and stand can lead to increased toe pain. Left untreated, chronic toe pain changes your gait and balance, leading to ankle pain and even knee pain.
No matter how minor the issue with your toenail, don't ignore it. The sooner you have your problem checked out by a toenail specialist, the less likely you are to suffer more painful and expensive complications down the road.
Jump to a specific topic below or contact our Milwaukee podiatrists today to schedule an appointment.
- Ingrown toenail symptoms & causes
- Ingrown toenail treatments & cost
- Ingrown toenail surgery & removal
- Fungal toenail symptoms & causes
- Fungal toenail treatments
- Black toenail causes & treatments
Fungal Toenail Symptoms & Causes
Nail fungus can go unnoticed for quite some time. Many people who have fungal nails don't seek medical treatment from a podiatrist.
Fungal toenail infections are a common foot health problem and can persist for years without ever causing pain. Toenail fungus is often dismissed as just a cosmetic issue. When left untreated, as nail fungus often is, it can turn into a serious problem.
What are the sympoms of toenail fungus?
Our podiatrists treat toenail fungus so you can feel confident in how your toes look again.
Nail fungus can be identified by:
- A change in color ranging from white to yellowish-brown. Nails may also appear darker if keratin debris builds up beneath them.
- A change in thickness – fungal nails are thicker than healthy nails
- A change in texture—fungal nails can become brittle, ragged or pitted
- In rare cases, toenail fungus can cause a bad smell and/or pain.
What causes toenail fungus?
Fungal toenail infections can be caused by fungi, yeast and mold. Fungal toenails can be caused by athlete’s foot spreading to the nails, or it can spread from one toenail to another.
Risk factors for toenail fungus include:
- Very sweaty feet
- Frequent athlete’s foot infections
- Going barefoot in locker rooms, gyms, communal showers, public pools, etc
- Skin and nail injuries or conditions such as psoriasis can cause cracks in nails allowing fungus to enter
- Health conditions or old age causing circulatory problems or a weakened immune system
Fungal Infection Prevention
- Keep feet clean and dry
- Don't share nail clippers or nail files with others
- Don't share shoes or socks with others
- Don’t cut toenails too short
- Wear dry cotton socks; change them as often as necessary
- Wear dry shoes that allow air to circulate around your feet
- Wear shower sandals or shower shoes when you are at a public pool or shower
Toenail fungus treatments
Our foot doctors can recommend anti-fungal creams to treat toenail fungus.
A common treatment for toenail fungus is a prescription antifungal medication such as fluconazole or terbinafine. These oral antifungals are typically very effective but may cause side effects such as skin or digestive problems.
There are also prescription and non-prescription anti-fungal creams which can be applied to the entire foot from the ankle down.
A popular home remedy for fungal toenails is Vicks Vaporub, because of its active ingredients eucalyptus oil and camphor. Tea tree oil has also been shown to have antifungal and antiseptic properties.
In extreme cases, permanent toenail removal may be recommended to treat fungal nails.
When should you see a podiatrist for a fungal nail?
If you’ve tried toenail fungus home remedies without success, you should have it examined by a podiatrist.
You should also consult a foot doctor if your fungal nail symptoms get worse, or if you have diabetes or other chronic health condition.
Ingrown Toenail Symptoms & Causes
Ingrown toenails (aka onychocryptosis) happen when the corners or sides of the toenail dig into the skin, often causing infection.
Ingrown nails are usually caused by trimming toenails too short, especially on the sides of the big toes.
Ingrowns can also be caused by cutting your nail too short, or cutting straight across without a slight curve at the top of the nail. This will cause your toenail to grow back improperly.
Other causes of ingrown toenails include too-tight footwear, injury (such as stubbing your toe), fungal infection and heredity.
How can foot fungus cause an ingrown nail?
Foot and toe fungus (such as athlete’s foot) can make your toenail disfigured or irregularly shaped, causing it to grow abnormally.
How to tell if you have an ingrown toenail
A toenail growing in to the skin next to it causes pain, redness, swelling and tenderness. If you see yellowish fluid crust or seeping, it can be a sign of infection. Other toenail infection warning signs include the skin being very warm to the touch, and red streaks.
Ingrown toenail treatments
Trimming toenails in the wrong shape can lead to ingrown nails and infection.
If you think your ingrown toenail might be infected, it’s best to get it checked out by a podiatrist right away. This is especially important if you have diabetes or other chronic health condition.
If your ingrown toenail symptoms are mild, you can try soaking your toes in warm water to soften the skin, and treating the area with an over the counter product designed to treat ingrown nails. It’s a good idea to use a piece of gauze or adhesive bandage to keep the product on the toenail. Our podiatrists recommend wearing white cotton socks because dyes used in colored socks can further irritate skin.
Never use a nail file, tweezers, scissors or nail cutters to try and ‘remove’ the ingrown toenail from the skin. This puts you at risk of infection.
Ingrown toenail surgery & removal
If an acute infection occurs or the nail is chronically ingrown, surgical removal of a portion of the toenail (and in some cases the entire toenail) may be necessary.
With a temporary toenail removal, the nail will grow back in several months. In cases where permanent toenail removal is required, the germinal matrix (the part beneath the nail) can be surgically removed to prevent regrowth.
Ingrown toenail surgery can often be done in our podiatry clinic with local anesthesia.
Cost of ingrown toenail treatments
There are many different types of at-home ingrown nail treatments costing less than $50.
The cost of ingrown toenail treatments by a foot doctor can vary widely depending on the severity of the problem, the scope of treatment required, and whether an infection is present.
Ingrown toenail treatments are typically covered by health insurance. Depending on the type of coverage and plan you have, there may be a copay. Our Milwaukee podiatrists accept insurance, including Medicaid and Medicare. Please bring your insurance information to your appointment and we’ll be happy to do a coverage check.
Athletes and long-distance runners are more likely to develop a black toenail.
Black or darkened toenails can be caused by:
- Bruising under the toenail due to injury (stubbing the toe, being stepped on or dropping something on your toe)
- Pressure from the end of the toe pushing up against the inside of a shoe (common in long-distance runners or people who frequently wear poor-fitting shoes)
- Fungal nail infection (keratin debris builds up beneath the nail)
- Medical conditions such as diabetes, heart disease, kidney disease, or anemia
- Skin cancer, specifically melanoma, can appear as a dark brown spot, even underneath a nail bedSome of the issues causing a black toenail will resolve on their own. If a black toenail doesn’t go away, you should get it examined by a podiatrist to rule out a serious medical problem.
A special note for diabetic patients: Contact our office for evaluation if experience any change in the color of toenails. The pressure causing the bruised nail may lead to a small sore under the toenail, which can lead to infection.
Toenail Pain Relief in Five Milwaukee area Podiatry Clinics
The caring foot doctors at Advanced Foot & Ankle of Wisconsin have five podiatry clinic locations in Milwaukee and the surrounding cities. Our podiatrists have years of experience identifying and treating ingrown toenails, fungal infections and black toenails using the least invasive procedures possible.
Don’t wait for persistent toenail pain or discoloration to turn into a more serious medical problem. Get your toenails checked out by a professional for the health of your nails, toes and feet.