Your feet – indicators of health
Because they are so far away from our heart, our feet are often the first part of the body to show something is wrong with the way blood circulates in our body.
The condition of our toenails can signal the presence or beginning of several diseases. For example, toenails that are hollow instead of being rounded can indicate iron deficiency or anemia (a shortage of red blood cells). Increased nail thickness, or bumps on the nail, can be manifestations of psoriasis, a skin disease.
The major parts of the toenail are: the nail itself (or the nail plate); its matrix, from where the nail grows; the lunula, the white, moon shaped area at the base of the nail; the nail bed, or the tissue on which the nail lies, and the sulcus, or the groove at the side in which the nail sits.
Healthy nails are pink, free of dirt and impairment, and grow into the grooves normally. Toenails grow constantly, but it can take up to 12 months to replace the toenail of your big toe.
Common conditions and treatment
INGROWN TOENAILS are the most common toenail problem. They may be caused by improper trimming, very curved edges, shoe pressure or repeated trauma to the feet from normal activities. They may also be inherited. Frequently the pain is due to a build up of dry and debris in the groove (or sulcus) of the toenail.
THICKENED TOENAILS is a common condition. Usually it’s the result of injury to the nail bed, such as dropping something heavy on your toes or a fungal infection.
FUNGAL INFECTIONS are among the most troublesome of nail conditions to treat. They are often characterized by thickening, discolouration 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.
Jonathan and Wendy can advise on a range of anti-fungal medications available for treatment. Regular reduction of the infected nail will give best results, allowing both nail lacquer medication to be applied directly to the fungus and encourage better regrowth.
OTHER INFECTIONS cause inflammation of the matrix (onychia) and inflammation of the tissue adjacent to the nail (paronychia). In some people with lowered immunity, this may sometimes lead to serious complications, including more widespread infection extending up the leg. As your podiatrist we can detect such infections early and form a suitable treatment plan.
TRAUMA to the nails may lead to permanent nail deformity. This can be cared for by regular, non-painful podiatric treatment, involving cutting and filing.
Older people with poor circulation are prone to fragile or brittle nails. Many older people do not have the strength, flexibility, or eyesight to trim their nails, especially if the nails are deformed. They should seek podiatric care for these services, and advice regarding safe self-care.