One of the ways your body tells you something is wrong is a change in color, as is the case with black toenails. When you become aware of a discolored nail, we can do more than just help you understand why it developed – Southern Oregon Foot & Ankle will also provide the care you need.

Various Causes of Black Toenails

While some conditions are pretty straightforward, there could be many different reasons why nails become discolored. These include:

  • Physical trauma or injury to a nail or affected toe. The most likely cause of nails turning black is bruising or blood pooling under the nail (subungual hematoma) following physical trauma. This can be the case of something heavy being dropped, an auto accident, or even stubbing a toe.
  • Repeated trauma. As opposed to a singular event, many runners develop black toenails on account of a toenail repeatedly hitting the top or front of a running shoe.
  • Footwear that is too tight or doesn’t fit properly. This is another cause of repeated trauma that can cause a darkened toenail for some patients.
  • Fungal infection. The symptom of fungal toenails that is often first noticed is discoloration of the nail tissue, although the condition would be quite advanced if the nail is dark.
  • Malignant melanoma. Fortunately, this is a rare cause, but it is a serious condition when this cancer is present. For this reason, it is best to have discolored toenails checked out at our office.

Black Toenail Symptoms

The most apparent symptom of this condition is discoloration of the nail or the nailbed. Depending on the root cause, the discoloration might be brownish, purplish, reddish, or black. In addition to an abnormal color, a patient may experience pain, foul odor, and even discharge emerging from underneath the nail. When discharge, odor, redness, and swelling are all present, it can indicate that an infection is present.

Another symptom that can accompany a discolored nail is an eventual separation of the nail from its nailbed. This most frequently happens when the discolored nail is the result of physical trauma and blood pooling under the nail has created enough force to cause the separation.

What to Do When a Nail Falls Off

In cases where a nail starts to become detached or comes off completely, it is important to know what steps to take.

First, smooth any sharp edges by filing them down to keep the nail from catching on something and tearing more than it already has. In the event of a large tear, you can either trim off the detached part or leave it be, depending on how comfortable you feel. Then soak the affected toe in cold water for twenty minutes, dry it off, apply an antibiotic ointment, and cover with a clean bandage.

The nail tissue will eventually grow back, but until it does, reduce your risk of infection by keeping the nailbed clean, dry, and covered with antibiotic ointment and a fresh bandage at all times. If the bandage becomes wet, replace it with a new one. Pay attention for common signs of infection, including redness, warmth, swelling, pus, and pain. If you observe any of these symptoms, contact us as soon as possible.

Black Toenail Prevention

Some of the best ways to prevent this injury are to:

  • Wear shoes that fit well. There should be room so that your toes can wiggle and about a thumb’s width of space between the longest toe and the front of the shoe.

  • Wear protective footwear. If your job requires that you move heavy items often, invest in a pair of safety shoes or steel-toed work boots.

  • Keep toenails trimmed properly. Nails that are too short and too long can both be problematic, so clip them even with the edge of the toes and straight across.

  • Keep your feet clean and dry. This is a good practice that will help reduce the risk of fungal infection.

Top Toenail Treatment in Southern Oregon

When you notice a discolored nail, come in and have our foot specialists check it out for you. We can assess the situation and provide the care you need. Contact Southern Oregon Foot & Ankle, by calling (541) 776-3338 or request an appointment at our Medford, OR office online.