Black toenail treatment in SeattleMany times throughout my career as a podiatrist I've had patients come to me with toenails that have turned black. Most often a black toenail is simply the result of nail trauma. The nail turned black because the person was a runner or a skier and they wore shoes or boots that were just too tight. Or they loved to tinker with their car and they dropped a tire iron on their toe. Sometimes kicking a solid object too hard can also cause a blackened nail to arise.

But sometimes a black toenail can be the sign of toenail fungus or even worse, melanoma. That's why it's so important to see a Seattle podiatrist if you notice your toenail is black or turning black.

What Are Fungal Toenails?

A black nail can be a sign of onychomycosis or fungal toenails. In Seattle, our feet are covered in socks, shoes or boots most of the year. And many of us wear cotton socks that keep our feet slightly damp. This is the perfect environment for toenail fungus to thrive.

Some of us are more prone to nail fungus due to our genetics. Runners and other active people also are at greater risk due to repetitive pressure on the nail bed which causes it to lift slightly allowing the fungus in where it can set up shop.

Fungal nails can be difficult to treat particularly if it's been a longstanding problem and the nail has thickened or the patient is immunocompromised. It's best to get this condition treated as early as possible to ensure the best chance of success. 

Treatment for Fungal Toenails in North Seattle

So how are fungal toenails treated? First, you should know that fungal toenails can be very difficult to treat. That's because the fungus is not only present on the top of the nails and on the surrounding skin but inside the nail bed as well. 

While many people try to treat toenail fungus with topicals, this method rarely works. That's because most topicals can't reach the nail bed. Oral medications do work, but often not permanently. Many people are also reticent to get treated with orals due to rare liver side effects. 

Then there's laser treatment. This is one of the newer methods for treating laser. It can work but is most effective when used in conjunction with "topicals that can reach the nail bed", a short course of oral medications, and with therapy for treating fungus in shoes. 

To learn more about treatment visit our Seattle Fungal Toenail Center.

Prevention of Fungal Toenails

Of course, the best thing to do is to avoid fungus altogether. Easier said than done. However, there are many precautions you can take to greatly reduce your chances of being infected. 

  • purchase socks that wick away moisture
  • alternate shoes daily
  • get your feet measured--even adult's feet can get longer. If your shoes are too short and your toes hit the top, your toenails can lift causing fungus to set up shop
  • wear flip-flops when poolside or in locker rooms
  • bring your own yoga mat to class
  • don't share towels or toenail implements
  • use a UV light shoe sanitizer to eliminate fungus from your shoes

Treatment for Black Toenails or Runner's Toenails

Sometimes a toenail turns black but does not have fungus. In that case, you simply need to let your toenail grow out. However, if the toenail is also painful you'll need to have a podiatrist drain the blood that has built up under the toenail. Learn more by visiting our blog about Runner's Toe--it's treatment and prevention. Or view a video about it below.



At worst a black toenail is diagnosed as melanoma, a very dangerous form of skin cancer. Melanoma tends to grow very slowly so it's important not to dismiss it. In fact, melanoma is the most common cancer of the feet. Unlike our faces which we look at every day, many of us ignore our feet.

When melanoma is found on the feet there is a much higher death rate than when it's located somewhere else on the body. That's because it's more likely to be discovered it when it's already too advanced to adequately treat.

Other related topics:

How to Prevent and Treat Toenail Problems in Hikers
What Are Dystrophic Toenails and How Are They Treated?
Do-It-Yourself Treatment for Toenail Loss When Hiking
Protecting Your Feet from the Sun Can Avoid Skin Cancer Disaster

Join The Conversation
Moeed 01/20/2024 2:39 PM
My nails turn in black or slightly red both toenail at the same place that's why I'm worried.
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Foot and Ankle Center of Lake City 01/22/2024 4:16 PM
It's best to get this checked out by a podiatrist. Although very likely if your toenail is black and you damaged it in some way either through exercise, stubbing it, or dropping something on, it's most likely trauma. If the podiatrist suspects you have fungus, a nail sample should be taken and sent to a lab. If he/she suspects cancer, he/she will either biopsy it or refer you for further testing.
Eliza Shefler 03/08/2024 4:40 PM
I have a friend who has a lot of toenail fungus- much of it is black, as well as the yellow kind, but the nails themselves aren’t black. What does the color of the fungus indicate?
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Foot and Ankle Center of Lake City 04/24/2024 1:23 PM
It's hard to say without an examination and testing. I recommend your friend seek out a podiatrist for evaluation.
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