Summer is almost here. That means warm days, T-shirts, shorts, and open-toed shoes. But if you have thick toenails, you may be a little worried about how they look in sandals. You may also be wondering how you got thick toenails in the first place?
We’ve taken a dive into the research and come up with a guide for all of your big toenail problems. We’ll explain the various thick toenails causes, thick toenails treatment, and even a thick toenail home remedy or two. If you’ve ever had a problem with thick toenails and want to know how to get rid of them before flip-flop season, this is the guide for you.
What Causes Thick Toenails?
Before thick toenails can be prevented or treated, it’s good to know the reasons behind them. Thick toenails can result from one of several things, with the most common being:
1. Poor Circulation
Lower blood flow to the toes due to conditions like diabetes may put your skin in rough shape, which can then spread to your toenails.
It may be a little gross to think about, but there are some fungi that can cause your toenail to be thicker. Certain fungi can separate your toenail from the toe and fill in the gap, making the toenail appear thicker than it actually is.
The toe injury is one of the most common causes of a thick toenail. It could be one large trauma (like a broken toe or the nail itself being ripped off) or small repeated injuries to the nail and toe. This is common among athletes (especially those who perform sports with lots of running and footwork, like soccer).
4. Skin Condition
Toenails can become thicker due to certain skin conditions like eczema and psoriasis. These skin conditions can inflame the dead skin cells around the toe and toenail area. The inflammation can be bad enough that it will cause the toenails to thicken in response to the irritation.
But don’t worry, there is hope because while there are thick toenail causes, there are also ways to try and prevent them from becoming thick.
Prevent Thickening of Toenails
Now that you know some of the causes of thick toenails, the next trick is to try and prevent them from happening. Prevention really comes down to paying attention.
1. Keep an Eye Out
Watch for changes in the skin around the toenail. As we mentioned previously, some skin conditions and damage can cause your toenail to thicken. If you see it beginning to occur, you can get it treated before anything happens to the toenail.
2. Take Care of Your Toes
Keep your toenails clean and properly trimmed. While this doesn’t mean go out and get a pedicure every week, it does mean that you should take a little bit of care when dealing with your toenails. Don’t cut them too short, and when you do cut, trim the nails straight across if possible. If you get any sharp bits, file them down.
3. Wear Proper Shoes
While you should do this for a number of foot health reasons, proper footwear can also prevent toenail injury and thickening. Make sure to buy shoes that are the proper size so your feet don’t slide around in them or jam up against the toe of the shoe. Make sure laces are tight to prevent sliding as well.
Now, if these steps do not prevent a thick toenail, don’t lose hope. There are a number of treatments available to help you when the toenail has thickened.
Medically Treating Thick Toenails
For those who want to fix thickening toenails quickly and don’t mind chemicals or medical intervention, there are a number of treatments that may work to remove the problem.
1. Acidic gels
For the nastier of the issues, your doctor might prescribe a gel with a mild acid. The acid will help burn off excess layers and debris from your toenail as well as killing off a bacterial or fungal infection.
2. Creams and ointments
There are a number of doctor prescribed creams that can take care of the fungus that may be causing your thick toenails.
It may sound ridiculous, but it’s true. There are anti-fungal lasers that can be used to treat your nail fungal issues.
In extreme cases where the thick toenail is damaging the entire toe, it can be surgically removed—but usually as a last resort.
If these medical treatments aren’t really up your alley, there are a number of natural treatments that you may also want to consider for your thick toenail.
Home Remedies and Tips to Treat Thick Toenails
If you want to try taking matters into your own hands before seeing a doctor, there are a number of home remedies that may clear up your thick toenail problem. Before attempting any of the home remedies we present below, please note that the first step is cutting and filing your nail down as short as you are comfortable with and without damaging your toe.
1. Tea tree oil
Tea tree oil may get rid of irritation to help with a thickened toenail. Place a few drops of tea tree oil on a cotton ball, and dilute it with a few drops of water. Swab around the nail on the surface and under the tip twice a day. You may be surprised at how quickly tea tree oil for thick toenails works.
2. Epsom salts
Find a tub or bucket to soak your feet in, and fill it with hot water (hot water, not boiling or scalding). Then pour Epsom salts directly on the affected area (they will also mix into the water). Soak for 30 minutes for two or three times a day.
Soaking your feet in a white vinegar solution (one part vinegar, two parts warm water) twice a day may remedy the issue. The vinegar may kill off certain types of toe fungus.
Hopefully these home remedies will help with your thickened toenail and save you a trip to the doctor.
Thickened Toenails Are Ugly, but Easily Rid of!
Thick toenails can be ugly, gross, and generally make you not ever want to take off your socks in public. But as we’ve shown, you don’t have to suffer from these gnarly toes. There are plenty of medical and at-home treatments that can help you treat the cause behind your thick toenail, get rid of the actual thick toenail, and get ready for sandal season.
Ciolli, C., “Home Remedy for Thick Toenails,” Leaf, https://www.leaf.tv/articles/home-remedy-for-thick-toenails/, last accessed March 22, 2017.