There are certainly many foot and ankle conditions that affect functionality, particularly issues experienced by bones, muscles, and the connective tissues. When we look at the broad spectrum of potential problems that can arise on the lower appendages, it is important to remember that the toenails and skin also have potential issues that can develop.
At our Upland, CA office, we offer effective care for a variety of common nail and skin conditions that not only relieves painful or concerning symptoms, but also helps avoid embarrassment and self-consciousness when wearing sandals, open-toed shoes, or walking barefoot.
We also provide professional toenail trimming services for those who are diabetic and/or suffer from peripheral artery disease (PAD). If you have diabetes, you have a heightened risk for serious medical problems that can develop in response to even very tiny matters – and this means you really should not trim your own toenails. Instead, have us do it for you!
Common Toenail Conditions
Toenails might have offered greater benefit for our ancestors than they do now in a world where feet are often sufficiently protected with footwear, but this doesn’t change the fact that they still play a role in our health.
In some cases, a nail issue can be painful or cause severe discomfort. At other times, nails are the source of embarrassment or self-consciousness. Either way, Dr. Jan Tepper will provide the first-class toenail treatment you need.
Some of the common toenail conditions we treat include:
- Ingrown toenails. This is a rather common issue, one that virtually anyone who can experience. There are several causes for a nail to become ingrown. In many cases, it is an inherited nail structure. At other times, there was physical trauma or toenails have been trimmed incorrectly. This tends to be rare, but this condition can also develop in response to tight footwear that crowds toes together in the front.
The main symptoms you will likely note are pain, tenderness, swelling, and redness along the edge of the affected nail. Additionally, this condition can increase your risk for infection – which is especially concerning for those who have diabetes.
Treatment will depend on the specific situation. For mild, isolated cases, it may be a matter of simply lifting the ingrown corner and making sure it grows over the tissue—instead of into it—as the nail is supposed to. Severe and recurrent cases might require nail removal (either partial or complete), but this is something you and Dr. Tepper will discuss together when determining the appropriate course forward.
- Toenail fungus. Fungal nails are embarrassing and can potentially pose a tremendous risk to diabetic individuals. The warning signs of this condition are toenails that have become discolored, dull, distorted, brittle, and/or ragged. In severe fungal infections, you might also observe a pungent scent.
Fungal infections are easy to contract—there are microscopic fungal spores pretty much everywhere—but difficult to eradicate. Once the fungus has made itself at home in the warm, damp, and dark environment provided by feet encased in socks and shoes, it doesn’t want to leave. That doesn’t mean this condition is untreatable, though.
On the contrary, we provide effective treatment options to restore your nails back to health. For optimal results—and the quickest time back to clear, shiny, healthy nail tissue—it is important to start treatment at the earliest opportunity. Otherwise, the infection will continue to progress.
- Black toenails. In most cases, a black toenail is simply a matter of subungual hematoma, which is blood pooling between the nail and its bed—something that can be caused by physical trauma—but discolored nails should still be checked out. One of the possible causes of a black toenail is a malignant melanoma. Fortunately, this is very rare, but it’s also quite serious and should be addressed at the earliest stage possible.
With regards to darkness caused by subungual hematoma, this tends to be fairly common within the running community – and especially for those who run long distances. In fact, it’s so frequent that the condition is sometimes called “runner’s nail.” This happens when toes repeatedly hit the top, front part of running shoes. Footwear choices—both socks and shoes—can make a positive difference.
Skin Infections and Issues
Being the surface layer of the body, skin plays an essential role in protecting us from external threats. It also helps us recognize when an issue is present. Discoloration, abnormal sensations (itching, burning), and unusual warmth or coldness are all indications that a problem exists.
Specific skin issues that tend to be more frequently seen include:
- Athlete’s foot. This common infection is not, in spite of the name, one that only athletes develop. On the contrary, anyone who visits damp, humid environments (gym showers and locker rooms, pool decks, etc.) or wears socks and shoes that trap in moisture—instead of wicking it away or being constructed from breathable materials—could be at risk. The infection is marked by an itching, burning sensation, but is often treated successfully with over-the-counter antifungal products.
- Plantar warts. Warts are rather commonplace, but their origins can be a mystery to some. They are actually the result of a viral infection from the human papillomavirus (HPV). The viral growths are not dangerous, but can cause physical discomfort and embarrassment. Also, they can be contagious and are best treated by professionals here at our Family Foot & Ankle Center.
- Dry skin. Skin that is damp or moist can increase the likelihood of fungal or bacterial infections, but excessive dryness is also an issue. Cracks and fissures from overly dry skin can allow microorganisms to enter the body and cause problems.
Preventive Measures for Skin and Nail Issues
There are some measures you can take to reduce your risk of fungal toenails developing, and this starts with keeping them trimmed, clean, and dry. Wash your feet on a daily basis to remove potential contaminants and make sure you dry them thoroughly afterwards – and particularly before you put on your socks and shoes.
Remember, fungi love damp environments. Accordingly, wearing moisture-wicking socks is always a smart move.
Keeping your nails trimmed properly is also important, but don’t clip them too short. Doing so could nick the skin or possibly create a situation wherein pressure on the toe leads to separation between the nail and skin. Even the smallest opening can allow fungus to make itself at home.
When trimming your nails, use a sharp toenail clipper and sterilize it first by rubbing the clipper with alcohol (and then do so again after). To avoid tearing your nails when trimming them, use small cuts.
If you have developed fungal toenails, it is important to come in and have us start treatment as soon as possible. The longer you wait, the less chance that simple treatment methods will work. We offer laser treatment for this condition, as well as more conventional remedies, but acting quickly is always your best defense.
In addition to the tips above, remember to cut the nails basically straight across. If you cut or round off the corners, the skin is more likely to be pushed over the nail by pressure from your shoes, and this can lead to an ingrown toenail.
After cutting, take an emery board or nail file and gently smooth any sharp edges that could scratch, cut, or hook on things.
Professional Treatment for Nail and Skin Conditions
If you—or any of your loved ones—have developed a condition that is affecting the health of your toenails or skin on your feet, Dr. Jan Tepper is ready to help.
And don’t forget: we provide nail trimming services for those who are diabetic – which is important because even the slightest injury or cut can become a serious infection and potentially necessitate an amputation. You can greatly reduce your risk for that situation by simply coming in to see Dr. Tepper.