Black toenails can be a frightening sight. Not only do they cause pain and embarrassment, but they show that there is ‘something’ severely wrong with the toenail (and the nail bed). If your toenail is turning black, it’s vital that you find out why this is the case and take action right away.
One of the main reasons for the heavy discoloration is black toenail fungus. It can create significant problems if it isn’t treated quickly. Your toenail is turning black because the fungus has gone untreated for many months or the treatment that you were using didn’t work.
It doesn’t matter if it’s your big toe or pinky toe, a nail that turns black needs to be treated immediately. The good news is that the majority of the potential causes can be addressed. It just takes time, patience, and diligence to clear up a fungal infection of the toenails.
Your black toenail treatment does, of course, depend on the reason for the problem. If you have a black fungus under the toenail, there are a choice of treatments. Of course, you will need to rule out other nail conditions (injury, melanoma, skin pigmentation, and health problems) first.
Table of Contents:
- 1 What It Means When Your Toenails Turn Black
- 2 Black Toenail Fungus Treatment
- 3 How Fast Can I Get Rid of Black Toenail Fungus?
- 4 Cover Black Toenail Fungus with Polish
What It Means When Your Toenails Turn Black
This guide will cover the factors that can lead to your toenail turning black. We’ll also look at what you can do to resolve each of these problems. The primary focus, though, will be on toenail fungus and the underlying symptoms because it is by far the most likely explanation.
Before that, we’ll explore the other ‘possible’ reasons for a black toenail and what can be done to recover. Once you’ve ruled out these explanations, you should treat the condition as a fungus. If you have already been diagnosed as having a fungal nail infection, you can skip forward.
1) Trauma or Injury to the Nail
There are two types of trauma your toenails:
This occurs when someone wears shoes that don’t fit well. If your shoes are overly tight, it can create constant pressure each time that you take a step. Think about your toes ‘jamming’ against the inside of the shoe with every step you take.
Not only can it be uncomfortable, but it can lead to a whole host of problems. You may even experience a blood blister underneath the nail, which can lead to a black toenail with pain.
This results in injury called runner’s toe. It occurs most frequently among athletes or runners, but it can happen to anyone. If you have a job that means that you have to walk around a lot during the day, you could be prone to this type of injury.
Blunt Force Trauma
This is a one-time injury. You can’t always protect your toes from accidents. Blunt force trauma to the toes usually occurs when something heavy is dropped on the toe, or you bang your toe on a hard object. Your body will react almost instantly, so you’ll be aware that something is wrong.
If the object is hard, it will cause the blood vessels in your nail bed to break. This will result in blood under the nail. In severe cases, the blood can build up so much under the toenail that the entire toe can become swollen. A doctor or podiatrist may need to drain the blood away.
It’s rare, but sometimes you can get a melanoma underneath the toenail. This is a form of skin cancer and can become aggressive.
The most evident symptom of this condition comes in the form of dark patches of skin. Sometimes, this can occur underneath the toenail. If your toenail is black but doesn’t hurt, it could be a sign and should be monitored closely.
Unfortunately, melanoma grows slowly and doesn’t usually have any other symptoms. So, it can be hard to recognize in the early stages, especially under the nail. But, if you let it go for too long cancer will have a chance to progress and become worse.
The best thing you can do is to pay close attention to your toenails. If you have any sudden discoloration or dark patches underneath them, consult with your doctor. They’ll perform some tests and provide you with an accurate diagnosis.
3) Skin Tone/Pigmentation
Sometimes, discoloration or darkening of the nail can be nothing more than changes to your skin pigmentation. Remember that there is skin underneath the nail. It can change color just as easily as anywhere else on your body.
The pigmentation of your skin can change over time. It may happen slowly, so it can be harder to recognize. But, the skin underneath your toenail is no exception to these changes. A shift in pigmentation can happen to anyone, but it occurs more frequently in people of color.
How can you tell if what you’re experiencing is just a change in your skin tone? One of the main tell-tale signs is to look at your fingernails. If you’re starting to see the same sort of discoloration, it’s likely just a change in pigmentation.
These changes are also usually symmetrical. For example, if you’re experiencing discoloration on one big toe, you’ll probably see the same thing on your other big toe.
In rare cases, these changes can be malignant, but they are usually harmless. If you still aren’t sure whether you’re experiencing changes in skin tone or something more severe like melanoma, get the nail change checked by your doctor or podiatrist.
4) Other Health Conditions
There are conditions to be aware of that may contribute to your toenail turning black.
Some of the most common conditions include:
- Heart disease
- Kidney disease
Each health problem has other symptoms. If you already know that you’re dealing with one of these issues, the best thing to do is continue treating it. If an underlying condition is causing your toe to turn black at the cuticle, you have to address the issue itself before treating the toe.
When you have specific conditions like diabetes, it’s imperative that you pay close attention to your toes. People with diabetes often have poor foot circulation.
You may not notice foot conditions until they become severe and harder to treat. By paying attention to your toes, you should be able to see discoloration at an early stage so that you can monitor and manage it.
5) Do I Have Black Toenail Fungus?
Fungal infections are common under the toenails because it’s an ideal environment for fungus to grow. You need to know the difference between black toenail fungus, a melanoma, nail trauma (injury), and other medical conditions.
The easiest way to tell if you’re dealing with a black fungus and not something else is to check for other symptoms that you’re experiencing. Some of the common signs of toenail fungus include:
- Foul odor
- Brittle nails
- Pain and discomfort
- Nail deformation
- Yellowing and discoloration
- The toenail is black and lifting from the toe
The early signs of toenail fungus can consist of a white or yellow spot in the center of the nail. But if it’s left untreated, severe cases can cause the toenail to turn black.
Is Black Toenail Fungus Dangerous?
Getting a fungal infection isn’t nearly as concerning as melanoma, but the dangers of toenail fungus shouldn’t be ignored. The longer you ignore it, the more you’re putting yourself at risk.
Some of the dangers that come from ignoring a fungal infection include:
- Foot pain – If your toenail is black and thick from the fungus, it could make it difficult to walk. Wearing socks and shoes will cause you pain and discomfort. Your toes might feel tender, or you may experience constant dull pain.
- Infection – If it spreads to your skin, it can crack open and allow bacteria in. The most common skin complaint is cellulitis. This causes your skin to become swollen and red.
- Lifting nail – The toenail may start to lift from the nail bed due to a buildup of the infection. The nail may need to be removed by a doctor for it to heal. If you continue to ignore it, a loose part of the nail may fall off on its own, and that can cause further pain.
Is Toenail Fungus Contagious?
Another danger is that toenail fungus is contagious. Even when you’re treating a fungus, it can grow and spread to other people, or even other areas of your body.
A fungus can also spread to others if they are exposed to it. That’s how many people contract toenail fungus in the first place. If your feet aren’t protected in areas like public showers or pools, you could pick up the infection from someone else who has been walking around with bare feet.
If you have toenail fungus or live with someone who does, you should be extra careful to avoid spreading it. Never share things like nail clippers, nail polish, or anything else that might touch the toes. Even towels should be off-limits.
Toenail fungus is contagious at any stage of development, whether it’s just starting, or even if the nail has turned black. Keeping it contained is one of the most crucial factors in treating it.
Black Toenail Fungus Treatment
There are many remedies for black toenails caused by toenail fungus. The sooner that you start treatment, the better. So, pay attention to the early symptoms, such as discoloration or a strange odor. If your nail has already turned black, there are still things that can be done.
In severe cases, you may want to get a podiatrist to look at the infection. Sometimes, nail removal unavoidable and is the best way to begin the healing process.
However, most people want to treat the problem at home. If you’re ready to put an end to the pain and embarrassment of a black nail, you can remove it with an antifungal agent.
1) Over-the-Counter Treatments
Most over-the-counter (OTC) treatments for black toenail fungus have antifungal formulas. Antifungal creams and ointments, like Lamisil, are known for their effectiveness. Antifungal creams work by breaking down the cell structures. They get underneath the nail and destroy the cells.
Not only will this help to stop the fungus in its tracks, but it will keep it from growing and spreading. When holes form in the fungus’ cells, it can no longer thrive. The cells will continue to become weaker, and the fungus will eventually die off.
There are rarely any risks to using creams and ointments unless you are allergic to the ingredients. If you experience any redness, itching or burning from a topical cream, stop using it and try an alternative. Unfortunately, the nail can act as a protective barrier for the fungal spores.
2) Foot Soaks
Another at-home treatment for toenail fungus is foot soaks. There are many varieties of foot soaks you can try, including some that are homemade.
One of the best is the Purely Northwest Toenail Fungus System. This is a three-part system and foot soak designed to get rid of even severe cases of toenail fungus naturally.
The potent ingredient in the Purely Northwest system is tea tree oil. This is a strong antiseptic, antifungal, and antibacterial agent.
It has been used for years as a treatment for a variety of different skin conditions. The Purely Northwest system contains an antifungal soap, a renew nail solution, and a foot soak that is a blend of tea tree oil and Epsom salt.
Soaking your feet can soften up your nails. One of the symptoms of a nail fungus is nail hardening. This can make them difficult to clip or clean, and gives the fungus a chance to keep growing.
When a foot soak softens your nails, they can be easier to clip. This will create a more difficult environment for the fungus to grow. Cut nails can also allow other treatments (creams, etc.) to get underneath the nail easier.
3) Laser Therapy
Laser therapy for toenail fungus was once only provided by doctors and podiatrists. Now, manufacturers are creating laser treatments that you can use at home. They are safe, easy to use, and good at getting rid of fungus quickly.
One of the most popular choices is the Cure Ex Fungus Treatment Laser Device. It works by penetrating through the nail. The laser light targets fungus and kills it at the core. It’s a much more practical option than going to the doctor for laser therapy, and won’t cost you thousands of dollars.
Often, these devices can get rid of toenail fungus in nearly half the time of creams and topical agents. But, a black toenail will take longer to clear up because a new nail will need to grow in its place after the fungal has been eliminated.
4) Black Toenail Fungus Home Remedies
Some DIY solutions work better than others. So, it’s vital to be able to weed out the most effective ones. Here are some of the best home remedies for getting rid of a black toenail:
Certain essential oils are good for fighting fungus and clearing up the surrounding skin. The best oil for treating this condition is Apothecary tea tree oil. Other favorite essential oils for healing toenail fungus include thyme, manuka, oregano, and lavender.
This won’t kill the fungus itself, but it can help with specific symptoms and be used along with other treatments. It will help to dry up excess moisture from underneath your toes.
This will create a more difficult environment for the fungus to multiply. It will also help to get rid of the foul odor coming from the nails.
You can make a paste with baking soda and water and rub it on the affected area. Let it sit for 5-10 minutes before rinsing away and drying your feet.
Apple cider vinegar (ACV)
ACV is used to get rid of toenail fungus at home because of its acidic properties. It balances out the pH levels of your skin and can kill bacteria and fungi.
It will help to prevent the fungus from spreading to other toes or areas of the body. To use, spray a mixture of apple cider vinegar and water onto the toenails and leave for about 30 minutes. Then, rinse away and dry your feet. Most people prefer an ACV foot soak.
How Fast Can I Get Rid of Black Toenail Fungus?
If your toenail has turned black because of fungus, it will take much longer to clear up. Some treatments are stronger than others. For example, laser treatment may work faster than a basic home remedy.
Some people don’t want to use chemicals or medications that may cause side effects. Natural remedies are usually safer but tend to take longer to work.
No matter what type of treatment you use, it could take weeks for a toenail fungus to clear up. In some extreme cases, it can take many months. The longer you’ve had the infection, the harder it will be to treat it. Never to stop treating a fungal infection of the toenails early.
If you notice the normal color coming back to your nail or other symptoms going away, you should still keep treating it. Toenail fungus is highly resilient. If it isn’t adequately treated, it can and will come back. If it does, you’ll have to start the treatment process all over again.
Cover Black Toenail Fungus with Polish
Black toenails can be embarrassing. While the health concerns that arise with a fungus are worrisome, most people want to treat the problem fast, so they don’t have to look at their unsightly toes. So, it’s no wonder many people want to be able to cover up their nails.
One method is covering toenails with nail polish. Unfortunately, using regular nail polish isn’t recommended. You can cover up your discolored nail, but you’re also blocking out any air.
When no air flow can get through, it creates an optimal environment for the fungus to thrive. Your nails need to breathe as they’re a living part of your body.
Additionally, if you apply a nail polish brush to an infected toe and then dip it back into the bottle, you could contaminate the entire thing. When you pull it out again to polish your next toe, you could be spreading the fungus without even realizing it.
A safer way to polish your toenails is with an antifungal polish. Certain polishes, like Dr.'s REMEDY Anniversary 3 Piece Boxed Set, Brave Berry/Resilient Rose, contain antifungal ingredients that can help to eliminate the infection. They are designed to treat the symptoms of toenail fungus while covering up discoloration with attractive colors.
Be sure to give your toenails time to breathe for a few days between each application.
Should I Be Concerned?
Because there are different reasons for your toenail(s) turning black, don’t jump to any quick conclusions. Pay attention to other symptoms you might be experiencing. If they go along with some of the conditions listed above, you’ll have a better idea of what to do to treat them.
Should you have the symptoms of toenail fungus, a black nail can be an extreme form of discoloration. If your nail has gotten black, the infection is likely pretty severe. Start a treatment plan right away.
We hope this guide has helped you to self-diagnose why your toenail might be turning black. If you have a toenail fungus, using Purely Northwest Toenail Fungus System will help to restore your nails to their natural color, and the rest of the symptoms will go away over time.