Toenail problems are common complaints in the podiatrist's office. They include thickening, brittleness, discoloration, and ingrown toenails. Nails, like hair, are an appendage of the skin. They are formed by layered sheets of protein with traces of other substances. Contrary to popular belief, there is very little calcium in nails. The normal toenail may be from 0.05 to 1.0 mm thick, and grows its full length in about six to twelve months. Nails are harder than skin, due to their high sulfur content and lack to water. The normal nail is translucent, and one can see the underlying pink nail bed.
Thickening and discoloration are often the sign of a diseased nail. With aging, the toenails thicken, grow more slowly, and become more susceptible to disease. Injury, infection, and disease may affect the toenails. The toenails and surrounding tissues are susceptible to day to day small repetitive injuries, for example in confining shoes. Changes in the underlying bone can cause deforming forces on the nail plate.
A common affliction of the nails is fungus infection. This may cause a thickening and degeneration of the nail plate. A microscopic examination and culture of a nail sample may help confirm the diagnosis. This is a difficult problem to treat. You podiatrist may prescribe therapy with oral anti-fungal medication.
The ingrown toenail is another common problem that presents itself to the podiatrist's office. Infection may result from improper cutting of the toenails, or injury to the surrounding skin from an incurvated or deformed nail plate. Your podiatrist may simply trim the offending nail border. Some patients require regular expert nail care by the podiatrist. In many cases a simple nail surgery can permanently correct the