What Causes A Black Toenail? Symptom, Treatments, and More 

black toenail

The protein keratin, which also makes up your skin and hair, is used to create your toenails. The flat, hard parts that cover the toes are called toenails. To normal wear and tear, they are resistant.

When something is wrong, the human body gives many subtle signs. Toenails that are black can be painful and unsightly. While there are many possible causes of black toenails, many of them are simple to treat or may go away on their own.

This article looks at potential causes, treatments, and prevention advice for black toenails.

Reasons That Cause Black Toenails

Black toenails can have benign or very serious causes.

Understanding some of the underlying causes is crucial for people with dark toenails.

If you’re unsure, it’s best to visit a doctor who can diagnose the issue and create a successful treatment strategy.

1. Repetitive Trauma

People who wear uncomfortable shoes run the risk of developing black toenails as a result of repeated trauma.

A variety of issues, including small blisters under the nails and blood blisters, can arise from prolonged pressure on the toes from ill-fitting shoes.

Black toenails can grow naturally over time in mild cases without treatment. In extreme circumstances, such as when the nail starts to come off the nail bed, the patient should see a doctor.

2. Fungal Infection

The development of black toenails can also result from a fungus infection, which is a common issue. Fungal infections frequently result in a white or yellow discoloration. However, debris can accumulate close to the infection and make the nail appear black.

Due to socks and shoes’ potential to serve as warm, moist breeding grounds for the fungus, toenails are particularly prone to fungal infections. With good foot hygiene, fungus infections can frequently be avoided.

3. Melanoma

Melanoma is an extremely rare cause of black nails. The most aggressive type of skin cancer is melanoma.

One or more irregular, dark patches of skin may be caused by melanoma. The skin beneath the nail bed can occasionally become darker.

Since melanoma develops gradually and doesn’t present with any other symptoms, it frequently goes undetected in the early stages, particularly if it starts under the toenail.

4. Blunt Force

When someone drops a heavy object on their foot or toes, for instance, the trauma might be a one-time blunt trauma. Blood pools on the nail bed as a result of the blood vessels in the nail bed rupturing in this situation.

The injured toe will soon start to bruise and collect blood under the skin. The toes may feel painful and swollen as a result of the blood buildup. Using acupuncture to drain the blood, doctors can treat this condition.

5. Pigmentation Changes

Over time, people’s skin tones naturally fluctuate. A dark patch could appear under the toenail in people with darker skin.

If there is a change in the pigmentation of one foot’s toes, it will typically also affect the toes on the opposite foot that are matched. Under the nails, darker spots can also develop.

6. Basic Conditions

There are a number of ailments that can result in black toenails, including:

  • diabetes
  • kidney disease
  • heart disease
  • anemia

Most of the time, treating the underlying issue will enable the nails to regain their original color.

Common Signs And Symptoms Of A Black Toenail Include:

  • Hyperpigmentation (White, yellow, or black)
  • Thickened 
  • Foul-smelling 
  • Painful (in some cases)
  • Swelling or Redness
  • Discharge (due to fungal infections) 

How Can I Care For Black Toenails?

Depending on the cause, there are various treatments for black toenails.

The doctor can puncture the nail with a needle to treat blunt trauma. A lot of pressure that has accumulated over time will be released by this hole, which will allow blood to drain.

Doctors may need to recommend additional medications to help the wound heal in more serious infections.

A doctor might advise taking a break and switching shoes if a patient has repetitive injuries brought on by, for example, wearing uncomfortable shoes.

First, a doctor must treat any underlying conditions like diabetes; while doing so, the doctor might also need to modify the patient’s regular routine.

A fungal infection can be treated at home. Creams and ointments are sufficient to eradicate the fungus and enable nail healing. These are accessible both offline and online. A doctor should be consulted, though, if the infection does not go away in a few days.

The doctor will go over every possible course of action if a black toenail is discovered to be cancerous.

How Can One Avoid Having Black Toenails?

Some causes of black toenails can be avoided by maintaining clean, dry nails. You can also take precautions to lessen the risk of toenail trauma. Wearing closed-toe shoes while working is necessary to prevent nail injuries from dropped objects. Toenail trauma can also be reduced by wearing comfortable footwear while exercising, especially when running.

You must take additional preventive measures with regard to other underlying causes. Melanoma can be avoided by wearing sunscreen around your toes and limiting direct sun exposure to your feet. By effectively treating and managing the underlying health condition, a black toenail associated with other medical conditions can be avoided.

When To See A Doctor?

It is not always necessary to see a doctor if you have a black toenail; it all depends on what caused it in the first place. Making this choice will be aided by knowing the cause. On the other hand, it’s a good idea to visit your doctor if you’re unsure of the cause and your toenail is black in case there’s a more serious medical issue going on.

Not every toenail fungus case necessitates a trip to the doctor. However, you should see your doctor for treatment if you also have diabetes.

Black toenails can also be identified and treated by a dermatologist. If you believe you have melanoma, you should see a dermatologist. For treatment, you’ll also need to see your primary physician if the cause of your black toenail is another underlying health condition, like diabetes.

A doctor should be consulted if a black toenail doesn’t go away. You can view dermatologists in your neighborhood using the Healthline FindCare tool if you’re worried about your black toenail and don’t already have one.

The Bottom Line

Under the nail may be completely dark for some people, while for others it may only be a small black dot. 

Black toenails are typically not problematic for someone unless they are the result of trauma or pigment discoloration.

Fungal infections will no longer be a problem if they are properly treated. The fungal infection can, however, spread to the feet and other body parts if left untreated.

Depending on the stage and severity of the disease, a person with melanoma may undergo a variety of cancer treatments.

Black toenails typically pose no health risks, need little care, and don’t interfere with daily activities.