Toenails have certain characteristics that can tell you about your health, no matter whose foot they adorn. When you come to our office for a foot examination, Dr. Kenneth R. Wilhelm of Clifton Foot & Ankle Center can pick up clues about your overall health by taking a full medical history – and by taking a good look at your toenails.

Dr. Wilhelm will examine certain aspects of your nails. For example:

  • Color.
    -A healthy toenail is going to have pretty much one color throughout. Any discoloration can be a sign of some health issues.


    -Red spots can simply mean you’ve injured the nail – maybe you dropped something on it. The red color indicates that blood is pooling underneath the nail. But red spots can also occasionally indicate a problem with your heart.

    -Yellow nails generally mean you’ve got a fungal infection that needs to be treated.

    -Black spots can also appear as a result of injury, but a black line down the nail could be melanoma (skin cancer).

    -White spots can result from an injury, fungus, or a deficiency in your diet.

  • Texture and shape.
    -Healthy toenails are smooth, shiny, and firm. Ragged, splitting, spoon-shaped, or pitted nails can indicate a lack of certain nutrients, such as zinc or iron. They may also point to diseases of the liver, kidneys, or thyroid.
  • The surrounding area.
    -The skin around your toenails shouldn’t be red or swollen, or show any pus around the nail bed. These are all signs of an ingrown toenail – that is, a nail that’s curved and growing directly into the skin. An ingrown toenail can be very painful and hard for you to miss!


    -If you haven’t been injured, but it looks like a toenail is actually separating from the nail bed and threatening to fall off completely, we may suspect a skin disease like psoriasis, or an autoimmune condition such as hyperthyroidism. Certain antibiotics can also cause a nail to separate from its bed.

The takeaway here is that if you see or feel anything unusual about the color, texture, or surrounding area of your toenails, get to the bottom of it sooner than later. Bring your concerns directly to board-certified podiatrist Dr. Wilhelm at our office in Centreville, Virginia. Make an appointment online or give us a call at (703) 996-3000 for prompt care and attention to your toenails.

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