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McDowell Podiatry
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Black Toenails—Not Your Problem Any More!

Not now, not again! Add another black toenail to the book, which surely means another discolored, painful problem that will cause your toenail to fall off or be bruised for a while. Black toenails are often caused by a sudden injury or repeated trauma. Whatever the cause, it’s an issue that can be treated and prevented with these pointers from Dr. Brian McDowell and Dr. Gavin P. Ripp from McDowell Podiatry Group.

The Black Toenail

The discoloration that you’re seeing is a small amount of bleeding underneath the nail, also known as subungual hematoma. Not to fear, though. Most of these injuries are minor. However, if the issue also involves a broken bone or damage to the nail bed, you should seek a doctor’s care right away or go to the emergency room.

Ouch! Causes for Bleeding Underneath Nails

You may have encountered a bad shoe, a blunt object, or a fungal infection to receive this darkened color under the toenail. Very common occurrences, such as stubbing your toe, slamming your finger in a car door, or dropping a heavy object—like a TV—on your foot during moving day are often the reason for black nails.

In rare cases, you might be experiencing discoloration due to a tumor underneath the nail. You may have this if the darkening doesn’t grow out as the nail grows out. Another sign of a tumor—the darkening started with no history of trauma to the nail. Please see a doctor!

Throbbing, Discolored Digits

You nail will throb as it fills up with substance, creating extra pressure underneath the nail bed. The blood can take on many colors, sometimes appearing purple, red, brown, or black. Inside that color, you might also see some discharge. Lastly, and reluctantly, take a whiff. It might be emitting a foul odor. If you can confirm these symptoms, you can treat your nail faster.

Treat at Home, if It’s Minor  

If less than 25 percent of the nail is damaged, you can stay home and let the toenail take its course. It may fall off after a few days, or just grow out. Sometimes, however, there are a few symptoms that may have you worried. If that’s the case, come on in.

We offer a lot of expertise in nail issues and can have your problems taken care of—no matter how big or small. Even if you don’t require a lot of treatment, at least we can rule out infection and give you a piece of mind so you can stop worrying. If your condition is severe, or more serious than just a black toenail, we offer biopsies and specific tests that can get to the root of the condition.  

For a black toenail, we’ll perform these procedures if we feel the nail needs to be drained or medicated: removal, needle, or cautery. For removal, we get rid of your problem with a painless elimination of the nail. With a needle, we poke a small hole in the nail bed and let the fluid out. Cautery involves draining of the toenail through a burned hole in the nail.

Good Shoes Can Prevent Black Nails

Preventing this condition is a little difficult, since you can’t always prevent yourself from stubbing your toe or dropping something on your foot. However, you can make sure you wear protective shoes and invest in good footwear that doesn’t bruise the fronts of your feet. Trim your toenails to keep them from banging against the front of your shoe, a repetitive trauma that often causes this bleeding underneath the nail.

Please don’t be embarrassed to come in with a condition like this one. We know that small injuries, like black toenails, can create bigger problems if they’re not addressed. Please visit our office in Carmichael, CA—we’d love to have you! Our phone number is (916) 961-3434 if you’d like to schedule a time to drop in. McDowell Podiatry Group is also on Facebook, Twitter, and Pinterest!