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Who gets nail problems?

Toenails of people of all ages can undergo a range of changes, some of which are relatively common. They can become thick, brittle, curved, discoloured, infected, clubbed, bumpy and grooved. In some cases, the nail falls off and a new one grows in. As we grow older, we are more likely to develop toenail problems.


What causes nail problems?

Toenail problems may be caused by warts, tumors under the nail, infection, or poor circulation. Major toenail problem culprits are incorrectly fitting shoes, which press too tightly on the toenails. Injury, such as bruising under the nail and infection can cause permanent nail deformity.


Common conditions and treatment


Ingrown Toenails

Ingrown toenails occur when part of the nail penetrates the skin and becomes more common with advancing age. This can result in infection and is quite painful. Severity of the situation can vary from deep embedding of the nail down one or both sides of the nail to a red and inflamed toenail as a result of infection.


  • Shape of the nail – this is primarily an inherited trait and will affect people with nails which are curved, rather than flat from side to side.
  • Poor cutting of the toenail – particularly if the nail is already predisposed to toenails becoming ingrown due to the shape. Trimming too far down the side of the nail can lead to them becoming ingrown.
  • Repeated pressure which may cause the nail shape to be altered, and be more prone to become ingrown. This pressure may arise due to incorrect footwear.

Antibiotics can be used to treat an infection. However, nail surgery becomes necessary when the nail continuously becomes infected, and is painful to wear footwear. The aim of surgery is to get rid of the portion of nail which continuously becomes ingrown. The procedure is performed painlessly by using a local anaesthetic. This is a minor “walk in walk out” procedure. The Podiatrist will issue you with instructions to maintain the toe after surgery.

Thickened nails

Usually the result of injury to the nail bed, such as dropping something heavy on your toes or fungal infection. They can be easily and painlessly thinned down by a podiatrist.

Fungal Infections

Often characterised by thickening, discoloration and separation of the front of the nail from the nail bed. In some cases the nail crumbles. These infections tend to stay in the nail if they are not treated, and can infect the nail bed. There are a range of anti-fungal medications available for treatment. Your podiatrist can assist with trimming and care of out-of-shape nail plates.


Trauma to the nails may lead to permanent nail deformity. This can be cared for by regular, non-painful podiatric treatment, involving filing and possibly the use of a special drill.