So, you look down at your feet one day, and you notice a black spot under a toenail. Should you panic and immediately go to the doctor? Probably not. While there are some rare instances when this problem is a sign of a serious health issue, the vast majority of times, you won’t need to be alarmed.
How can you tell what’s causing a black spot under toenails? Here are a couple of the more common reasons this happens – and what you can do about it.
The most typical cause of a black spot under toenails is a fungus. Not only does discoloration occur, but the nail will also usually be brittle and hard. You might also notice that the skin around your nail is sore.
A fungal infection can be very contagious. You could have picked it up from someone else or even from an object that came into contact with your feet. There are certain risk factors for fungal nail infections, including advanced age, certain underlying medical conditions, and gender – men are more likely to suffer fungal nail infections than women.1
A fungus needs to have the right kind of environment in which to thrive. It needs to be in a place that’s dark and moist. The perfect environment is the inside of a shoe. This is particularly the case if you run a great deal, or if you workout on a regular basis. The sweat inside of your sock is a great breeding ground for fungi.2
While you don’t need to panic, you do need to address the situation.
If a fungal infection goes untreated, it could spread to other areas of the body and cause major problems. The longer you wait to attack the issue, it’s very likely that the problem will only get worse.3
There are several over-the-counter products you can use to address a fungal infection. These include both topical creams and ointments and oral medications. Always check with your doctor before taking any type of medication, to make sure it won’t negatively interact with other medicines you might be taking.
Natural Options for Fungal Infections
Many people believe that there are natural options that can help address a fungal infection. Let’s take a closer look at two of them.
· Coconut oil – Researchers believe that coconut oil has antifungal properties. Coconut oil contains lauric acid and capric acid, which help to disrupt fungal membranes.4
· Apple cider vinegar – Apple cider vinegar contains maleic acid, which purportedly has antifungal and antibacterial properties. However, there is not a great deal of scientific evidence that proves apple cider vinegar can have any sort of effect on a fungal infection that affects the toenails.5
Avoiding Toenail Fungus
You can also take steps to try and avoid a fungal infection in the future.
- Keep an eye on your nails, and pay attention to any changes. This way, you’ll be able to spot the signs of an issue early.
- Make sure you wear the right type of shoe when you work out, and also make sure your everyday shoes fit correctly.
- Always wear protective shoes whenever you use a public shower.
- Make sure to change your socks twice a day if you’re physically active and alternate your workout shoes.
- Keeping your nails clipped closely could also help you avoid a fungal infection.
Trauma is another reason that a black spot under the toenail will form. But a trauma doesn’t have to be a major injury, such as dropping something heavy on your nail, or stubbing your toe on a door or a piece of furniture (ouch!). It could have been something less obvious, or something that occurs repeatedly over time.6
You might, for instance, be a runner. When your toenail bangs against a hard surface time and time again, that can put pressure on your nail and cause a dark spot due to bleeding under the nail bed. Or, you might be wearing shoes that simply don’t fit properly. This can sometimes lead to the formation of a blood blister under your nail.
When to See a Doctor
Again, the cause of a black spot under a toenail is usually relatively minor. However, there are some rare instances where it can be a sign of a serious problem, such as a kidney or heart condition.7
If you’ve taken medications to eliminate a fungal infection, or you’ve changed to better-fitting shoes and the spot is still there, you should go to your doctor.