Horses, cows, sheep and goats have hooves that protect their feet. Dogs and cats have nails and claws on their paws to help them dig or hunt. Bird claws help them perch and climb trees, but what do your toenails do, and why is nail care so important?
The Purpose of Toenails
For one thing, nails are a form of protection. The ends of your toes are often bumped, scraped, or have things dropped on them, and the hard keratin is a way to slow down skin damage that could open your toes to infection. They also can serve as a sort of early warning system, because the appearance of your nails can indicate conditions such as rheumatoid arthritis, liver disease, or iron deficiency. They also are very useful for picking up thin objects and scratching, although we usually use our fingers for this, not our toes. Finally, the article recognized that they have been a place of adornment for thousands of years. People seem to love decorating these odd little pieces of hard tissue at the ends of their fingers and toes!
Proper Nail Care Prevents Fungal Nails
You can help prevent a fungal infection in your toenails by keeping them trimmed, clean, and dry. Wash your feet every day to remove contaminants, and dry them thoroughly. Fungi love damp environments, so wearing socks that draw moisture away from your skin can be a big help in keeping the microorganisms at bay, too.
It is important to keep your nails trimmed as well, but not too short. You don’t want to nick the skin, or leave a situation where pressure on the toe can cause the nail and skin to separate. The smallest opening of that type allows the fungi to invade. Use a sharp toenail clipper, and rub it with alcohol before and after use to sterilize it. Make small cuts, so you don’t tear the nail when cutting.
If you have developed fungal toenails, it is important to come in and let us start treatment as soon as possible. The longer you wait, the less chance that simple treatment methods will work. We offer laser treatment for this condition, as well as more conventional remedies, but acting quickly is your best defense against this.
Good Nail Trimming Habits Also Prevent Ingrown Toenails
In addition to the tips above, remember to cut the nails basically straight across. If you cut or round off the corners, the skin is more likely to be pushed over it by pressure from your shoes, leading to an ingrown toenail. This is when the hard tissue doesn’t grow straight out, but curves down and becomes buried in the adjacent skin. This can swelling and become quite painful. It can even pierce the skin and infection can set in. After cutting, take an emery board or nail file and gently smooth any sharp edges that could scratch, cut, or hook on things.
Sometimes a thick, crumbly fungal nail or one that is growing into the skin can be very hard to trim by yourself. Our podiatrists are expert at medical nail trimming, safely removing the extra keratin without harming the soft tissues around it. This is also very important if you have a condition like diabetes, where the smallest injury can become seriously infected, and possibly lead to an amputation.
Let us take the worry out of nail care. Call Atlantic Foot & Ankle Associates in east Florida and set up an appointment for medical trimming or treatment for your fungal or ingrown toenails. We have five locations along the coast.