Nail Problems

What is nail problems?

Toenails of people of all ages can undergo a range of changes, some of which are relatively common. They can become thick, brittle, curved, discolored, infected, clubbed, bumpy and grooved.

In some cases, the nail falls off and a new one grows in. As we grow older, we are more likely to develop toenail problems.


What causes nail problems?

Toenail problems may be caused by warts, tumours under the nail, infection, or poor circulation. Major toenail problem culprits are incorrectly fitting shoes, which press too tightly on the toenails. Injury, such as bruising under the nail and infection can cause permanent nail deformity.

  1. Nail Plate – Protects the nail bed which is full of delicate blood vessels and nerves.
  2. Nail Groove
  3. Lunula – White moon shape base.
  4. Nail Matrix – Cells where the nail grows from.

Common complications

Ingrown toenails

The most common toenail problem. They may be caused by improperly trimmed toenails, very curved edges of nails, shoe pressure or repeated trauma to the feet from normal activities.

They may also be inherited. Frequently the pain is due to a corn or callous in the groove (or sulcus) of the toenail.

Most cases will require conservative treatment, while others may need a minor surgical correction which can be conducted in your podiatrist’s rooms using a local anaesthetic.

Fungal infections

Among the most troublesome of nail conditions to treat. They are often characterised by thickening, discoloration 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.

There are a range of anti-fungal medications available for treatment. Your podiatrist can assist with trimming and care of out-of-shape nail plates.

Thickened nails

A common condition. Usually it’s the result of injury to the nail bed, such as dropping something heavy on your toes or fungal infection. They can be easily and painlessly thinned down by a podiatrist.


Other infections

Cause inflammation of the matrix (onychia) and inflammation of the tissue adjacent to the nail (paronychia). In people with lowered immunity, this may sometimes lead to serious complications, including more widespread infection extending up the leg.

Your podiatrist 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 filing and possibly the use of a special drill.


Older people

Early treatment might involve exercise and shoe recommendations, taping or strapping and anti-inflammatory medication (such as aspirin). Taping or strapping supports the foot, placing stressed muscles in a restful state and preventing stretching of the plantar fascia. Other physical therapies may also be used, including ice-packs and ultra-sounds.

These treatments will effectively treat the majority of heel and arch pain without the need for surgery.

Only a relatively few cases of heel pain require surgery. If required, surgery is usually for the removal of a spur, but also may involve release of the plantar fascia, removal of a bursa, or a removal of a neuroma or other soft tissue growth.

Warning signs

Your recovery will depend on the cause of your heel pain and your individual health. If you are suffering with a heel spur or plantar fasciitis, it normally takes about six to eight weeks for a healthy individual to fully recover.

That is when the injured area is fully rested or properly strapped.


Taking care of nails

  • Trim toenails straight across to a length just below the end of the toe. Do not round off the corners – this can cause ingrown toenails.
  • Use a strong pair of nail clippers.
  • After clipping, smooth nails with a file or emery board, using downward strokes.
  • Wear only properly fitted shoes, not short or narrow ones.
  • Wash feet regularly, especially between the toes, and dry thoroughly.
  • Wear socks or stockings that are not too restrictive.