Your Toenails Aren’t Supposed to be Dark

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Girl runningIn the fall, nature is always changing its colors. Green leaves turn yellow or orange or red. They fall off the trees and eventually turn brown. The grass turns white with frost in the mornings—and later the ground looks even whiter with early snows. Changing colors in nature is a normal part of the seasonal cycle. Changing colors in your body, unfortunately, is not usually a normal part of a cycle. Usually it’s a sign that something isn’t quite right. That’s definitely the case for black toenails.

Normally your toenails are clear and a sort of neutral color. They’re somewhat shiny and have white-ish tips when they grow past the end of your digit. A darkened, black patch under your nail is a symptom of something out of the ordinary. There are three things it could be: an injury, an infection, or a disease.

It’s almost always an injury of some kind. On a rare occasion, the darkening is from a fungal infection; in even rarer cases, it’s a sign of cancer. For the vast majority of people, however, it’s a sign that you’ve damaged the toe under your nail. If you’re a runner or athlete of any kind, you may find black toenails more often than you’d like.

Toenails turn black when damage causes mild bleeding under the hard keratin. Stubbing your toe really hard, dropping something heavy on yourself, and even the repetitive bumping of your toes against shoes can lead to the condition. The leaking blood stains the underside of your nail a dark color. Normally this is fairly painless, though it may look unsettling.

If the dark nail is uncomfortable, you might have a small pool of blood trapped there, putting pressure on your toe. Worse, though not as common, is pain from an injury that actually pierces the skin under the nail and goes down to the bone. In both cases, you’ll need help from our team at Podiatry Associates, P.C. to take care of the pain and heal your toe.

If you’ve noticed your nails changing color, don’t just shrug and move on. Black toenails aren’t normal. Our teams in Cherry Creek, Castle Pines, and Parker, CO, will be happy to help you take care of your digits. Just make an appointment online. You can also call (303) 805-5156 to reach us.
Dr. Cynthia Oberholtzer-Classen, DPM
Founder and Owner of Podiatry Associates, PC
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