Prevent Hideous Aging Toenails

Kissable infant toes can become unsightly appendages as they age, with thicker, more brittle, and less elastic toenails. Learn how to maintain appearance.

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As we age, our bodies undergo many changes, including changes to our nails. Toenail deformities can be uncomfortable and unsightly, but understanding why they occur can help you prevent or manage them. In this article, we will discuss the common causes of toenail deformities in aging individuals and provide tips for maintaining healthy toenails.

Why Do Toenail Deformities Occur with Age?

Toenail deformities can occur for a variety of reasons, including age-related changes to the structure and function of the nail. As people age, their nails may become thicker, more brittle, and less elastic, which can lead to deformities. Additionally, changes in blood flow and hormonal changes can affect the growth and health of toenails.

One common age-related toenail deformity is ingrown toenails. This occurs when the nail grows into the skin, causing pain and swelling. Older adults may be more prone to ingrown toenails due to changes in the shape of the nail or decreased flexibility in the toe joint. In addition, poor nail trimming techniques, such as rounding the corners of the nail, can increase the risk of ingrown toenails.

Another common toenail deformity in aging individuals is fungal nail infections (onychomycosis). Older adults are more prone to fungal infections due to weakened immune systems and slower circulation. Fungal infections can cause toenails to become discolored, thickened, and brittle, making them more prone to cracking and breaking.

Onychomycosis occurs in 10% of the general population, 20% of persons older than 60 years, and 50% of those older than 70 years. —AAFP

Toenail ridges are also a common age-related toenail deformity. Aging can cause the nails to develop ridges and become thickened, making them more prone to cracking and breaking. Additionally, hormonal changes during menopause can lead to thinning and weakening of the nails, making them more susceptible to ridges and deformities.

The skin beneath the toenail expanding and sticking to the edge of the nail is often caused by onycholysis. This is a condition where the nail separates from the nail bed. Causes include trauma to the nail, fungal infections, or skin conditions such as psoriasis.

The separation allows fluid to accumulate between the nail and the nail bed, causing the skin underneath to expand and stick to the edge of the nail. If you are experiencing this condition, see a doctor or dermatologist for proper diagnosis and treatment.

Finally, toenail discoloration is another common toenail deformity in aging individuals. Toenails may become discolored due to age-related changes or fungal infections. For example, yellowing of the toenails can be a sign of a fungal infection, while dark streaks or spots can indicate melanoma, a type of skin cancer.

Tips for Maintaining Healthy Toenails

Maintaining healthy toenails is essential for preventing and managing toenail deformities. Here are some tips to help you keep your toenails healthy as you age:

Practice good foot hygiene: Keep your feet clean and dry, and make sure to dry your feet thoroughly after bathing or swimming. Avoid walking barefoot in public areas, as this can increase the risk of fungal infections.

Wear properly fitting shoes: Shoes that are too tight or too loose can put pressure on your toenails and lead to deformities. Make sure your shoes fit properly and are comfortable.

Trim your toenails properly: Trim your toenails straight across, and avoid rounding the corners. Use a toenail clipper, and avoid using scissors or other sharp objects to trim your nails.

Moisturize your toenails: Apply a moisturizing cream or lotion to your toenails to help keep them healthy and prevent dryness and cracking.

Stay active: Regular exercise can help improve blood flow and keep your toenails healthy. Make sure to wear properly fitting shoes and socks during exercise to prevent blisters and other foot injuries.

See a doctor for any nail changes: If you notice any changes in the color, shape, or texture of your toenails, see a doctor. Early detection and treatment of toenail deformities can help prevent complications and improve outcomes.

Do Pedicures Prevent Adverse Nail Changes?

Some pedicure practices may actually increase the risk of nail deformities. For example, cutting the cuticles too aggressively or pushing them back can damage the nail bed and increase the risk of infection. Using improper tools, such as dull or contaminated instruments, can also increase the risk of infection or injury.

Therefore, if you decide to get regular professional pedicures, choose a reputable salon that follows proper sanitation and sterilization practices. Make sure that the pedicurist uses clean, sanitized tools and that the foot baths are properly cleaned between clients.

To minimize the potential risks associated with nail polish, choose high-quality, non-toxic polishes and removers, and to apply and remove them properly. Make sure to apply the nail polish in thin layers and to allow each layer to dry completely before applying the next one. Take off nail polish with a gentle, non-acetone remover, and avoid scraping or filing the nail surface excessively.

It is also a good idea to take a break from wearing nail polish occasionally. This allows the nails to breathe and recover. If you notice any changes in the appearance or health of your toenails, such as discoloration, thickening, or separation from the nail bed, see a doctor or podiatrist to rule out any underlying medical conditions.

Put Your Best Foot Forward

Toenail deformities can be uncomfortable and unsightly, but understanding why they occur and how to prevent or manage them can help you maintain healthy toenails as you age. As you get older, your toenails may become thicker, more brittle and less elastic. This can lead to deformities such as ingrown toenails, fungal infections, ridges, and discoloration.

Practice good foot hygiene, wearing properly fitting shoes, trimming your toenails properly, moisturizing your toenails, staying active, and seeing a doctor for any nail changes. This can help prevent and manage toenail deformities. Taking care of your toenails is an important part of overall foot health, and can help you stay comfortable and active as you age.

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Updated: Jun 21, 2023

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