What causes black toenails?
Unless you are a Goth who paints their toenails black, the most likely cause of a black toenail is repetitive trauma to the toes during running, walking and other active sports. The black discolouration you can see is bruising to the nail bed caused by the nail lifting from the nail bed, the official medical term being Subungual Haematoma.
Although it looks awful it is usually not painful and, given time, the bruising will grow out with the nail.
I know that many runners and sports people (and Goths) see this as a badge of honour to brag about, a sign that you are real hardcore, but the nails form an important barrier against damage to the toe itself, and infection of the nail bed, so it is important to look after them!
How can I prevent them?
Prevention is better than cure, so make sure your shoes are not too tight and don’t let your toenails get too long. Keep an eye out for any sign of infection, and if you are suffering from any pain or discomfort, give your friendly local Podiatrist a call.
How can a Podiatrist help?
There are other causes of discolouration to the toenails so get in touch with me if you are not sure of the cause. A quick check of the footwear will soon tell me if you need a change of shoe to reduce pressure on the toes.
Pain can be caused by pressure from the bruise building up under the nail, and a simple procedure involving making a small hole in the nail plate releases the pressure and gives instant relief. There is a small risk of a fracture to the toe if there has been a heavy one-off impact to the toe, and it is important to get that checked.
Finally, if the nail is coming off, I can prescribe an anti-fungal to protect the exposed nail bed while the nail is growing back and give you advice to prevent the problem occurring again, unless you are looking for another ‘badge of honour’ of course!