Healthy toenails keep your feet looking fresh. Even if you don’t have athlete’s foot or any other foot fungus, you may notice that your nails are starting to get discolored, drier, or thicker. Although a lot of it comes from the natural aging process, there are a few things you can do to help your toes feel a little more youthful again.
Thick Nails – Toenails can thicken because of damage/trauma to the toe, fungal infections/bacterial infections, or diseases (such as psoriasis, rheumatoid arthritis, and more.) Also as you age, your toenails tend to become more firm and thick because you are constantly wearing shoes, which creates pressure on your toes.
If your toenails are thick due to trauma, it will either clear up on its own, or if the trauma was severe, the nail may permanently be thicker. If your toenails are thick due to an infection of some sort, lasers or topical/oral medications can be used to help treat the problem. If your toenails are thick due to a disease, the disease itself will need to be treated in order for your toenails to be helped.
In general, for thick nails, soaking in warm, soapy water for at least 10 minutes before trimming can help, as well as putting Vaseline on the nails every night before you go to sleep to keep the nail softer.
Discoloration – Your nails can be discolored for many of the same reasons listed above for thick nails. The good news is, it is easier to change the color of your nails than to make them thinner. Try juicing one lemon in a bucket of water large enough to fit your feet and soak for 15 minutes before rinsing. If you want a more direct method you can make a paste using a 1:1 ratio of baking soda and lemon juice and apply on your toes using a nail buffer. Once you’re finished rinse your feet and pat completely dry before applying a cream or lotion.
Dryness – This one has the easiest remedy. Use a moisturizing cream on your feet before going to sleep and after you get them wet (after showering, swimming, etc.) If you have some time to let your feet dry, you can soak your nails in olive oil and massage the oil into your toenails. If you think your nails are dry due to lack of nutrition, take a daily multivitamin or change your diet to incorporate healthier foods.
Also, don’t try to use nail polish to cover up your nails. Nail polish and remover is damaging to your nails even when they are healthy!
Dr. Kenneth R. Wilhelm of Clifton Foot & Ankle Center has been treating patients for all types of foot and ankle problems for over seventeen years. If you have any questions call us at 703-996-3000 or make an appointment at our Centreville, VA office here.