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Toenails provide essential protection for the numerous bones in your toes. They are also good indicators of your overall health.

Don’t ignore any new pain or changes in colour, thickness or texture. These toenail problems are all signs of injury or infection so don’t hesitate to consult your podiatrist before a little niggle turns into a bigger problem.

Here are three of the most common toenail problems:

1. Fungal Infections (Onychomycosis)

Fungal infections have several possible causes. Fungi lurk in damp, warm places such as swimming pools, changing rooms and showers.

Some people are more prone to fungal issues than others. A weakened immune system, circulation issues or those who suffer from athlete’s foot are susceptible to toenail fungus. Thick, non-breathable socks and shoes can have the same consequences if worn regularly.


Your toenails may thicken and become discoloured. They can also become brittle, start splitting and even separate from the nail bed altogether. In extreme cases, the area will be very painful.


Mild infections can be treated with over-the-counter lacquer and your podiatrist will suggest the most appropriate for your condition. We may also trim and remodel the nail to remove infected areas. This helps the medication to work effectively and encourages quicker healing.

More severe cases require oral medication as prescribed by your GP. Your podiatrist will tell you if this is necessary.

2. Ingrown Toenails

These are extremely painful and can lead to severe infection. Ingrown toenails occur when the nail grows into the surrounding skin. Poor toenail trimming or injury are usually to blame and squashing your toes in shoes that are too narrow will have the same effect. If the nail or toe is misshapen this may be an inherited issue due to your genetics.


Pain, swelling, infection and discolouration are all signs of an ingrown toenail.


Mild cases might be managed under conservative care with correct trimming. However, surgery to remove the problem nail is often necessary – a simple procedure for your podiatrist. There are two methods: removal of one or both sides of the affected nail (partial avulsion) or removal of the entire nail (total avulsion). A local anaesthetic ensures it’s a pain-free process.

The podiatrist will dress the wound and advise you on the right aftercare to promote healing and prevent infection. We’ll also ask you to attend regular check-ups to redress the wound and make sure everything is healing nicely.

3. Toenail Trauma

Toes can be damaged through injury, repeated pressure, or long-term wearing of poorly fitting shoes. Sportspeople or dancers are particularly susceptible, but it can happen to anyone.

The nail bed (the area beneath the nail) contains numerous nerves and blood vessels. Any harsh impact in this region is sure to cause problems.


A throbbing pain is common, and you may notice a red or purple bruise under the nail. The area may be swollen and produce pus. The nail can split, tear or thicken and if the damage is severe, it can lift off the nail bed.


Minor injuries may only require careful trimming and filing of the nail to prevent snagging and further tearing. Regular soaking and the application of topical antibiotic cream ease pain and clear up the infection.

It may be necessary to create small holes in the nail to drain pus or the nail may need to be removed altogether. Your podiatrist will know the best approach for your situation.

Expert Advice and Treatment at Feet By Pody

Whether you have a specific toenail problem or simply need trustworthy advice, our experienced podiatrists are here to help.

Contact one of our London clinics today