There are a few conditions that could occur if you don’t take good care of your toenails, such as a fungal infection, or the nail ingrowing/splitting.
It’s common for older people to suffer from issues relating to their toenails, though those with diabetes or people taking certain medications might be affected too. People who play football and similar sports could also suffer damage or trauma to their toenails, which could cause them to become deformed/grow inwards and make their sport difficult to play.
What’s the purpose of our toenails?
Toenails protect our feet and can enhance our grip (not that we run through the trees or scale difficult terrains nowadays, unlike our predecessors before we evolved). It’s easy to stub your toes when walking around barefooted. You may recall when you’ve done this and how painful it was, but it could have been much worse had your toenails not taken the brunt of the force.
Your toenails can harbour bacteria if you don’t follow good hygiene practices. Elderly people commonly suffer from fungal infections under their toenails as a result of poor circulation and specific medications they may take.
The infection is first noticeable by a small yellow or white dot at the tip of the nail. Left untreated, the infection spreads and eventually discolours the nail completely. It may also cause the cuticles to swell and redden and cause the toe to feel sore. The infection may also cause the feet to smell.
Again, quite a common issue amongst some sections of society, particularly the elderly who may not be physically able to take care of their feet without help.
Ingrown nails can be caused by the toenail being cut too short or trauma/injury. The natural growth of the nail becomes misaligned, and the nail begins to grow into the nail bed and surrounding skin. This causing swelling and can prove very painful indeed. The ensuing infection can also result in pus building up behind the nail.
So, how can you take care of your nails to prevent the likelihood of any of the above occurring?
Practise good hygiene: make sure you wash and dry your feet and toenails thoroughly, particularly after exercise or in warm weather where your feet may be sweatier than usual.
Trim your nails carefully: though some people like their fingernails to look curved/oval, this is not a good idea for your toenails, which should be cut straight across.
Change your shoes and socks regularly: given that fungal infections thrive in sweaty conditions, make sure to change your socks every day—perhaps even more frequently if you exercise. Try and rotate the wearing of your shoes, so that you’re not wearing the same pair day in, day out; give them chance to air/dry out between use.
Make sure your shoes fit you: too-tight shoes could cause damage and trauma to your feet and nails, and provide a hotbed for bacteria to multiply, for nails to grow awkwardly, or for such as bunions to develop.
Wear waterproof socks/shoes: these are a good idea at facilities like swimming pools and spas, where others may walk barefoot. They will reduce the risk of contracting transferable conditions, such as athletes’ foot and similar infections.
If you would like professional help or advice from qualified podiatrists, contact Treat Your Feet on 01226 492 412 (Barnsley) or 0113 238 0330 (Leeds).