Lifestyle & Health : Toenails changing as I get older

January 31, 2017

Nerissa, 58, is experiencing an age-related problem. Her toenails have become thickened and darker in colour and ridges can be seen on some of them.

She has been treated over the past two years with several ant-fungal agents, which she has used for months at a time with little positive results.

As we age, changes occur in the growth plate at the base of our fingers and toenails. The growth plate thins and blood circulation to the nail bed is compromised.

As a result, changes can occur in the nails. Vertical ridges can form and are a sign of brittle nails.

 

FUNGAL INFECTION

 

Nails then also grow at a slower rate and sometimes even lift off the nail bed after mild trauma. When this occurs, people often think, they have a fungal nail infection, but that is not the case at all.

Not every thick, yellow, elevated toenail is due to nail fungus, but instead, there may be nail dystrophy.

Athletes and individuals who jog a lot may see this kind of change also occurring to their toenails.

This is because the repetitive friction and trauma that the toes and nails undergo in shoes while running affect the blood supply to the nail bed and results in abnormally growing toenails.

Also, the continual striking of the nails against the front of the shoe can cause the nail to separate from the nail bed.

With ageing, it also becomes more difficult to clean up our own toenails properly. It is good to see a podiatrist for nail assessment and care and also to use the services of a good nail technician regularly.

Also of note are the diseases such as psoriasis, eczema, and rheumatoid arthritis which can also affect the toenails.

Thickened nails can be trimmed and filed down to reduce their size if they are occurring due to ageing or injury.

When thickening is due to a fungal infection, then topical and oral treatment with anti-fungal medication is needed. If the nail is painful, then sometimes it will need to be removed.

To trim thickened toenails:

• Soak feet for 10 minutes in warm, soapy water.

• Dry the feet and toe nails

• Trim the nails straight across.

• Use emery board to file down the nail surface.

• Wear properly fitted shoes and socks to help prevent recurrence.

When in doubt, seek the care and advice of a physician!

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