Toenail growth problems may arise due to certain diseases such as infections, lack of vitamins and minerals, use of certain medication, trauma or damage to the toenail, or due to certain anatomical problems.
Toenails, for most people, are those parts of the body which do not get much attention. What most people may not realize is the fact that nails play a very important role as a health indicator. Occurrence of problems such as slow growth in them, may be an indication of local or systematic disorders in the body.
Commonly Responsible Factors for Slow Toenail Growth
One of the common diseases of the toenail is what is known as ingrown toenail. As the name suggests, this problem is marked by the soft corners of a toe growing into the flesh of the same. Symptoms that occur include redness, swelling, and infection of the affected tissue of the affected toe. These symptoms are worsened with pain and tenderness in the same area.
This problem can be easily managed with the help of simple self-care measures at home such as soaking the affected toe in warm water mixed with apple cider vinegar. And if there is any risk of infection, topical antibiotics can be prescribed. At the doctor’s, the ingrown nail may be slightly lifted so that it may grow above the skin edge. This is done for a mild case. However, if the problem is more severe, then a part of the ingrown nail may be removed, or the tissue from which the nail is growing and the nail itself may be removed.
As the name suggests, this condition refers to an infection caused by a fungus. Initially, the infection can be seen under the tip of the affected nail. With time, and without any treatment, the fungus covers deeper grounds in the nail giving rise to symptoms such as the nail getting thicker, brittle, crumbly or ragged. The nail may get discolored, and accumulation of debris may make the area under the nail dark and unsightly. Having these symptoms on one or both the toenails, or the nails of the hand for that matter, refers to a condition called onychomycosis. And if the fungal infection is causing the infected toenail to get separated from the nail bed, then the infection has another name, ‘onycholysis’.
As the causal pathogen is a fungus, the first line of treatment is an antifungal. The medication can be oral or topical, and can be availed over-the-counter. However, given the nature of the infection, prescription-strength antifungal medication is more effective. In cases wherein, medication does not work, doctors usually remove the infected nail through surgery.
A more serious form of nail infection that may cause problems with toenail growth, is what is known as paronychia. This infection usually affects the base of the toenail. It occurs more in people who have the habit of nail-biting, and nail sucking (especially in kids). Based on the length of the duration, the infection is known as acute or chronic. Staphylococcus aureus is known as the most common offender that triggers this infection.
This pathogen is able to invade the soft tissues of the base of the nail through a break in the skin, which may be caused by hangnail, nail-biting, ingrown nail, or trauma. Also, prolonged exposure of the toenail to detergents, and water also increases the risk of infection. Symptoms of the acute form include redness, swelling, and formation of pus near the nail plate. When the infection is a chronic one, all such symptoms are less noticeable, except that the skin near the infected nail becomes soft and watery.
For most cases, antibiotics are put to use. Soaking the foot with the infected toenail in warm water 3 – 4 times a day, helps in reducing the pain, and promotes drainage. If pus is present, then draining it is important.
Problems with toenail growth can also be caused by deficiency of vitamin A, vitamin B-12, vitamin C, vitamin D, iron and zinc deficiency. So the best way to avoid these deficiencies is by inculcating a diet full of various vegetables, and fruits. This kind of diet not only provides the required vitamins, and minerals, but antioxidants too to keep the overall health of the body in a stable condition.
Although it is not always possible to avoid all the factors that cause such problems, keeping the nails clean, trimmed, dry, and wearing proper fitting shoes do help cut the risks significantly.