Bid Farewell to Black Toenails

Every season there seems to be a new trend for nail color. Popular polishes often change from shades of pink to glittery hues to orange, teal, and more. Typically, however, black is not a color of choice, and no wonder! When your toenails turn black, it’s not exactly attractive. In fact, if you have black toenails, it can be downright painful!

Toe Trauma

Black toenails are often seen in athletes who put their feet through a lot of pounding. When runners go down hills, for example, their toes tend to jam against the front of their shoes. However, this condition can also occur because of trauma such as a heavy object falling on your toe, so athletes aren’t the only ones susceptible. Are you big on going barefoot? You can be at risk as well. Fungal infections and wearing ill-fitting shoes can cause the problem too.

What’s Behind the Black?

Black toenails

The discoloration— which can sometimes be brownish, red, or purple as well—is the result of a subungual hematoma, which means that blood has collected beneath all or part of the nail. This build up can generate an extreme amount of pressure, which can be very painful. While in many circumstances medical attention may not be necessary, for a number of reasons it is wise to seek help at the first signs of symptoms.

Dismissing other Dangers

It is extremely rare, but in some instances black toenails can be a sign of malignant melanoma beneath the nail. Since early diagnosis and treatment of melanoma is critical, it is important to schedule an appointment with Podiatry Associates, P.C. as soon as possible to rule out this serious condition. Our doctors will also be able to check for infection, as well as the possibility of severe lacerations or exposed bone in the nail bed, which can become dangerous and even lead to amputation if left untreated.

Depending on the circumstances, we may decide to remove the nail entirely to get a better look at the nail bed and treat any problems there. We may also use a sterile needle to make a small hole in the nail in order for fluid to drain and relieve built-up pressure. Often the nail will eventually just fall off on its own, but unfortunately, there is no guarantee that the new nail will grow in normally. Prompt attention from a professional improves your chances that your toenail will return to its natural color and state upon regrowth.

Hematoma Healing

Recovery time depends on the nature and severity of the condition. To help the healing process, we may recommend an Epsom salt soak twice a day for ten to fifteen minutes each time, then applying antibiotic medication before covering with a sterile bandage to protect the area. Follow-up visits will ensure that treatment is going well. You can expect the whole process to take a few months.

Keeping in the Clear

Luckily there are a few things you can do to prevent black toenails from occurring in the first place. Make sure that you wear shoes for protection, and that they fit well with plenty of room for toes to spread out. Keep your feet and nails clean and dry and trim toenails straight across, being careful not to go too short. If you see any signs of trouble, contact Dr. Cynthia Oberholtzer-Classen and the team at Podiatry Associates, P.C. Just call (303) 805-5156 to make an appointment—or visit us in Castle Pines or Parker, CO. 

Dr. Cynthia Oberholtzer-Classen, DPM
Founder and Owner of Podiatry Associates, PC