Are you or your loved one suffering from thickened toenails?

What Causes Thickened Toenails?

The first thing to know about thickened toenails, whether you're child, young adult, or a senior, is that it's not all due to fungus. Everybody is contacting us about fungus and their toenails. And it's not just because we live in the Northwest.

Thickening of your toenails can be due to three things:

  • trauma
  • fungus
  • skin disorders

Let's take them one by one.

Trauma and Your Toenails

What does this look like? It actually can look almost the same as a fungal nail infection. The nail gets thick, it can be discolored. It can become somewhat ingrown and it can certainly hurt. So how do you know the difference between that and the thickened discolored fungal toenail? Well, one may be that you had an injury. Often patients who have this happen will tell me they drop something heavy from three feet high down onto the toe. Often, some years ago. And the nail was thickened ever since.

Another cause of trauma is micro injury from wearing shoes. And particularly, when some toes are longer than other ones. And it's subtle, one of your toes can be less than a quarter inch longer. If you look at the tips of those toes, you might even see a little callus formation.

Just the other day, someone was in saying, "Oh, I was playing tennis and my nails hurt, and they're thickened and it's fungus." Well, that was a quick tip off to me that likely and sure enough, there was a little callus and thickened toenail and really no other evidence of thickening of the nails. The problem here was micro trauma.

Fungus and Your Toenails

Fungus on the toenails can be present on its own. It often develops because the skin actually has the fungal infection first, even if you don't see it and it creeps into the nail gradually. Usually from the end, or tip of the toe back. But if you've injured the nail, that makes it easier for the fungus to get in. That's right, you can have both.

Skin Disorders and Your Toenails

Lastly, we have the issue of skin disorders. Two in particular. Psoriasis, which is patchy eruptions on the skin and eczema. Both of these are autoimmune disorders and produce changes in the skin, toenails or an appendage of the skin. And the changes can look just like fungus.

So there you have it, the three things, trauma, fungus, both trauma and fungus, and skin disorders. If you're wondering what it is, have treated it on your own and you are not getting anywhere. Come on it. Let's figure this out and help you clear up these thickened toenails.

To learn more about how we treat fungal toenails visit us here!

Call us at 206-368-7000 to make an appointment.


Dr. Rion Berg
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A podiatrist in North Seattle treating families for over 40 years.