Thickened Nails

Thickened toenails occur when the toenails become abnormally thick and often exhibit changes in colour or texture. Several factors can contribute to the development of thickened toenails, and the condition may affect one or more nails.

What causes thickened nails?

  • Trauma or Injury: Injuries to the toenail, such as repetitive microtrauma from ill-fitting shoes or a single traumatic incident, can result in thickened toenails.
  • Fungal Infections: Fungi can invade the nail, leading to thickening, discoloration, and changes in texture.
  • Ageing: Normal ageing can lead to changes in the toenails, including thickening. Reduced blood circulation and slower nail growth are factors.
  • Psoriasis: Individuals with psoriasis, a chronic skin condition, may experience thickened and pitted toenails.
  • Peripheral Arterial Disease (PAD): Reduced blood flow to the feet, often associated with conditions like PAD, can contribute to thickened toenails.
  • Systemic Conditions: Certain systemic conditions such as diabetes or autoimmune disorders may affect toenail health and lead to thickening.
  • Genetics: A genetic predisposition to thickened toenails can contribute to the condition.
Thickened Nails

How are thickened toenails treated?

  • Proper Diagnosis: Identifying the underlying cause is essential for effective treatment. A podiatrist can conduct a thorough examination and, if necessary, perform laboratory tests to determine the cause of thickened toenails.
  • Burring: The use of a specialised burr or file to gently reduce the thickness of the toenails. This can be done during professional debridement sessions.
  • Fungal Nail Treatments: If a fungal infection is the cause, antifungal medications (topical or oral) may be prescribed. Treatment duration varies depending on the severity of the infection.
  • Proper Footwear: Wearing well-fitting, breathable shoes can reduce pressure on the toenails and promote overall foot health.
  • Addressing Underlying Conditions: Managing underlying health conditions such as diabetes or peripheral arterial disease is crucial for comprehensive care.
  • Patient Education: Providing guidance on proper foot hygiene, nail care, and preventive measures to avoid trauma or injury.
  • Nail Removal: In extreme cases, where thickening is severe, painful, or associated with recurring infections, a podiatrist may recommend partial or complete nail removal. This is a last resort and is typically considered when other treatments have not been successful.
Thickened Nails