A common complaint from patients is that they don’t like the way their feet look or even more specifically their toenails. Very common among elderly people is that they say they are unable to bend down to cut their nails and/or their nails are too hard to trim. For many of these patients, their nail nippers don’t work or may even break. Luckily, podiatrists are able to provide routine nail care for these types of patients. A podiatrist has a heavy duty nail nipper that will easily be able to cut thick nails and may also have an electric file to help smooth the nail down if it is very thick or rough causing sharp edges. It is important to realize though that a podiatrist is not a pedicurist, so not every patient’s insurance will cover this service, but know that it is available for those patients who qualify.
So why do nails become hard and unappealing to patients? Well, one of the most common causes is what is called onychomycosis. Onychomycosis is the medical term for toenail fungus. The toenail fungus will plant itself into the nail plate and cause the nail to grow thick and will make the nail turn a yellowish color. In addition, the nail may become brittle or very hard. This appearance may not be pleasing to the eye, but even worse, these types of toenails can often cause pain. If the nails become too thick, the shoes will be pressing and rubbing on the nails, which leads to irritation. Patients may also say it hurts to put on socks since the socks get caught on the rough edges and pulls hard on the nails.
Treatments for fungal toenails:
• Dry your feet well, especially in between the toes, after bathing
• Change socks several times throughout the day or as socks become damp
• Apply vapor rub to the nails at night and then wear socks to bed
• Over the counter topical antifungal creams
• Prescription strength antifungal creams
• Prescription strength oral antifungal pills
• Laser treatment
If you really do not like the nails’ appearance, you can order antifungal nail polish, which will cover the yellowish colored nail, and will try to kill the fungus. It is important to note, that none of these treatments are guaranteed to work, but they are all worth trying. If you ignore your toenails you may develop more severe complications. Nails that are not growing healthy and straight may dive down into the nail borders and cause an ingrown nail, which medically is referred to as Onychocryptosis. The nail digging into the nail border may cause the entire toe to be painful. Often times, ingrown nails may be the site of infection. A podiatrist must remove ingrown nails, and you should not try to remove it on your own. This is especially true for patients who have diabetes or neuropathy, which is the lack of feeling in the feet. Minor nicks that patients who struggle to cut their nails may cause may lead to an open wound and infection, which will create an even bigger problem. If you are struggling with cutting your own toenails, contact Boulder County Foot and Ankle or Platte Valley Foot and Ankle Clinic to see if your insurance will cover you for routine nail care. Don’t forget though that a podiatrist is not a pedicurist, so your nails will be shorter and not as painful, but in your opinion, they still may not be ready for wearing sandals.
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American Academy of Podiatric Sports Medicine