Caring for toenails also becomes more important as we age. If you can’t properly care for your toenails, “it can lead to problems,” says Michael Goyer, M.D., a foot and ankle surgeon in Orange County, Calif. For example, neglect can lead to painful toenails and damage. – Long toenails bump into the front of your shoes.
There are solutions. These expert strategies can help you avoid problems.
In general, if you’re able to take care of your toenails and you don’t have any underlying medical problems — diabetic neuropathy, or limited mobility or vision — you might consider cutting your own nails, says podiatrist Alex Gore of Witham Health Services. in Lebanon, Ind., and spokeswoman for the American Podiatric Medical Association.
If you’re uncomfortable clipping your nails, a few steps can make using a toenail clipper easier. “I tell my patients to take a shower or bath — or soak their feet in warm water — before cutting their toenails,” says Shari Lipner, MD, associate professor of clinical dermatology and director of the nail division at Weill Cornell Medicine in New York. “Water helps soften thick nails, making them easier to cut.”
It is also useful to keep the skin around your toenails moisturized. Lipner applies a thick emollient cream to the area, then puts on a pair of cotton socks and lets the moisturizer do its job while you sleep.
When trimming the nails, be careful not to cut too far down. “Too aggressive trimming and cutting toenails too short can lead to ingrown toenails,” Goyer says.
Gore says experts generally recommend that when trimming, the smallest bit (1 millimeter or 1/32 inch) of the nail should go past the nail bed. You should avoid a round cut. “It’s best to cut the nails straight, making sure the corners of the nail don’t cut into the skin folds of the toe,” Goyer says.
For those who can’t — or don’t want to — cut their own toenails, a podiatrist can care for both the foot and the toenail. But pedicures at a podiatrist’s office aren’t covered unless they’re considered medically necessary or you have an underlying condition. Professional to put your feet up.
If you’re in generally good health, regular pedicures at a nail salon may be an option—and will allow you to avoid the cost of undisclosed services at a podiatrist’s office, Gore says. “But make sure the place is clean and see how they clean their tools (or bring your own),” she says.
While thickened or discolored toenails don’t necessarily mean something is wrong, pain or new ones — or something you’re worried about — should be brought to the attention of a dermatologist or podiatrist.
They can diagnose toenail fungus, advise you on topical or oral treatments when needed, treat ingrown toenails, and assess damage from injury to the nail. Another reason to see a doctor: In some cases, the condition of your toenails can help diagnose health problems that need treatment.
PsoriasisFor example, it can affect toenails, causing them to thicken and even separate from the nail bed. And in rare cases, a black spot on your toenail can be a sign of a serious skin cancer called melanoma.
“Don’t dismiss the signs of potential problems,” Lipner says. “Your toenails can signal anything from a local infection to a systemic disease.”
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