The only time when people give proper attention to their toenails is either when they have a freshly done pedicure, or when they have a black toenail. The former reason is fun, but the latter is concerning. Black nails could be from your new shoes, whose black colour happens to get on your nail.
But if it’s not, then there is no need to panic as well, since fungal infections usually cause black nails, although in certain rare cases, it may be related to something serious.
1. Symptoms of Black Toenails
The most obvious symptom of black toenails is the black colour toenail, but if blood pools in that area causing your nail to have a black toenail, then accompanying symptoms of black toenail include:
- Nail separating from the nail bed
- Thickening and splitting of the nail
The discolouration of the nail can not only be black but also blue, red, and purple.
In case, of infection symptoms may vary, and include:
- Brittleness to the nail
2. Causes of Black Toenails
Now that you have learned about the symptoms of black toenails, let’s get to the point of the causes of black toenails. Once you understand the causes of black toenails, you will be able to understand how to cope with your black toenail and get rid of it.
The following are the causes of black toenails
2.1. Physical Injury
The most common cause of your black toenail is physical injury to it.
Physical injury can be both repetitive, as in the case of wearing tight shoes, particularly in the case of athletes, or it could be a one-time event, where you may have dropped a heavy object on your foot, that caused your nail to swell.
In case of mild injury, the nail will recover. However, in case of severe injury, where the toenail is detaching itself from the nail bed, the person needs to seek medical help immediately.
You can also use the RICE method in case of mild injury to the nail.
- R: Rest, avoid walking, standing for long periods, hiking, running, etc
- I: Put Ice on the injured area, to relieve yourself from pain and swelling
- C: Compress, apply gentle pressure by wrapping the injured area with a cloth, this helps with blood polling under the nail.
- E: Elevating your feet to the level of your heart will help reduce swelling, and accelerate the process of recovery.
2.2. Fungal Infections
Another common cause of black toenails is fungal infections. Although discolouration caused by fungal infections is brown or yellow, however, debris can build up near the infection causing it to look black.
Fungal infections on the toes are pretty common as the warmth from socks and shoes provides a great breeding place for fungi. Moreover, people who do not dry their feet, and walk in wet places with bare feet are also susceptible to fungal infections on their feet, and even on their toenails.
While fungal infections can be easily cured with the help of anti-fungal creams, the symptoms of fungal infections often overlap with other conditions, so you may want to consult a doctor before using an over-the-counter anti-fungal cream.
Also, look for additional symptoms of fungal infections like wrapping of the nail, brittleness, odour, and white or yellowish-brown discolouration.
Melanoma is a type of skin cancer that is treatable if diagnosed early on. Melanoma under the toenail is called subungual melanoma and resembles that of an injury to the toenail. If you don’t remember getting hurt, rush to the doctor, as it could be early signs of melanoma.
Other symptoms of melanoma include brown or black streaks on the nail that grow over time, a bruised or dark spot under the nail that does not bother even if the nail grows, darkening of the skin under the nail, cracking thickening of the nail, and bleeding from under the nail.
2.4. Pigmentation Changes
The skin on your body changes colour, and so does the skin under your toenail, in the form of a dark spot. The good thing is that you can easily differentiate between melanoma and pigmentation changes since pigmentation changes are usually uniform and appear on both toenails at the same time.
2.5. Underlying Conditions
Certain health conditions like diabetes, kidney disease, heart disease, and anaemia, can change the colour of your toenail. There is nothing to be worried about; the simple solution is to regulate these underlying conditions.
Another underlying cause could be your medicines. Certain medications like cancer drugs, antibiotics, retinoids, psoralens, and hydroxychloroquine can affect the nail bed by stopping blood supply or increasing or decreasing light sensitivity causing your nail to be black.
3. Home Remedies To Treat Black Toenails
There are times when we don’t want to visit the doctor, except for the case of melanoma, but in case of fungal infections, many medications may cause other side effects.
3.1. Tea Tree Oil
Tea tree oil is both antiseptic and antifungal so apply a small amount around the infected area daily to get rid of fungal infections.
Apple cider vinegar has acetic acid, which is proven to be anti-fungal. Therefore soaking your feet in diluted vinegar water is a great way to get rid of black toenails. Use equal parts of vinegar and water and soak your feet in it. If you have a heavy infection, consider soaking your feet for a longer time.
3.3. Oregano Oil
Oregano oil has thymol, which has anti-fungal and anti-bacterial properties and is great for reducing toenail fungus. Apply oregano oil around the infected area, you can also use a combination of oregano oil and tea tree oil for greater effectiveness.
Garlic has anti-microbial properties and is great for getting rid of black toenails. If you don’t like the taste of garlic, then you can alternatively take supplements. However, if you have ulcers, stomach infections, or bleeding disorders, then consult a doctor before taking these supplements.
3.5. Changes in Diet
Diets also play a part in getting fungal infections. If your diet consists of more carbohydrates and excess sugar, then you are more prone to have Fungal infections.
Alternatively, if you have diabetes or anaemia, and other diseases, then consider changing your diet accordingly.
4. Preventing Black Toe Nails
Following are the ways to prevent your nails from getting any darker.
- Wear properly fitted shoes, especially when working out or handling heavy objects.
- Avoid walking in wet public places and make sure you wear the proper footwear to these places.
- Have a good hygiene routine to avoid fungal infections.
- Wear clean cotton socks
- Air dry or sun dry your sports shoes
- Walk barefoot at home, to give your feet some much-needed fresh air
- Trim your nails straight across
- Treat any underlying conditions
- Treat nail issues at early stages to avoid complications
Black toenails are generally not something to be worried about. The most common cause of getting a black toenail is from injury which will either get better with time or recover faster when you use the RICE method.
Fungal infections are also nothing to be worried about and you don’t have to waste your time on the internet.
However, if there is a sudden appearance of a black spot on your toenail, and it does not get away with home treatments, then rush to the doctor as it may be a sign of melanoma, and the earlier you get it treated the better.
6.1. How to identify Black Toenails?
Identifying black toenails is probably the easiest where you only have to look for black toenails. The symptoms may also include pain, nail separating from the nail bed, and nail splitting.
6.2. Are Home remedies better or medication for fungal infections?
It depends on what type of infection you have if it is not something severe, you can go for home remedies, but if it does not cure, it’s better to check with a doctor and switch to proper medication.
6.3. How to Prevent Black Toenails?
To prevent black toenails, wear proper fitting shoes, maintain foot hygiene by clearing your feet regularly by wearing clean socks, and avoid walking on wet areas with bare feet.