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Why does my big toe nail hurt?

by Alivia Nyhan
Published: Last Updated on

Nails are a special epidermal tissue that lines the tops of the fingers and toes. The hard part or nail plate is modified skin composed of keratin. Under this hard part, is the matrix of the nail, responsible for the longitudinal growth and the increase in the thickness of the nail.

This nail matrix has a great germination capacity and, in fact, the nails never stop growing in life. Normally, the nail plate is flat with convex edges that hug the fleshy part of the fingers, but when the nails grow abnormally they can become ingrown and become a problem.

If you have discomfort in your big toe, keep reading, at FastlyHealwe answer your question about why my big toe nail hurts.

Onychocryptosis or ingrown toenail

Nails grow lengthwise, approximately 2.5 to 3 mm per month. As people get older, this growth slows down. Instead, the thickness of the nails increases over the years. Children generally have thin, flat nails, but older people have thicker and sometimes curved nails.

The normal thing is that the nails grow flat with their slight natural curve on the finger. However, there are cases where the nail does not grow normally and the edge digs into the skin of the fingers. This condition is called onychocryptosis or ingrown toenail. Any of the fingers can suffer from this condition, but in reality it is much more frequent (almost exclusively) in the big toe.

More precisely, the nail or nail plate is driven into the lateral bed of the finger, on one side or on both sides at the same time. Then, the soft part becomes red, inflamed, painful and can even become infected. Onychocryptosis occurs due to anatomical or mechanical causes that deform the longitudinal growth of the nails.

Symptoms of an ingrown toenail

When you have an ingrown toenail, the first thing that appears is a slight pain that occurs because the nail is compressing the soft tissue. At that time, in addition, there may be a little swelling and redness of the finger. Then, in a second moment, the nail penetrates the soft tissue of the lateral bed and the inflammation and pain increase. It can become infected and form a granuloma with foul suppuration in some cases.

If this condition is not treated, it can continue to advance. In that case, the nail continues to grow into the tissue and the pain becomes very intense. There is inflammation, foul odor, redness, and warming of the infected area. On the other hand, the granuloma is covered with epithelial tissue preventing suppuration. When this happens and the body temperature rises, it is urgent to see a doctor.

Causes of ingrown toenail

The first symptom of onychocryptosis or ingrown toenail is pain, which, as mentioned before, begins only as a minor annoyance and can transform into a very severe one. So the answer to why my big toe nail hurts is probably that a splinter from the nail is starting to penetrate the soft part of the toe. It is an onychocryptosis or ingrown toenail.

There are several factors that can alter the structure of the nail plate or nail and cause onychocryptosis or ingrown toenail. Among them, there are anatomical conditions and mechanical conditions, the latter related to trauma to the nails:

  • Nail morphology: the shape of the nail affects its growth direction. A more curved nail is more likely to ingrown. Some people have congenital deformations that cause the nails to become ingrown, there is even childhood onychocryptosis due to this cause. In some cases, there are also soft tissue deformations that can be the cause.
  • Improper cutting : cutting the nails round or excessively can cause them to grow penetrating the nail bed. Cutting or picking at the corners and edges of the nails also alter their structure.
  • Trauma: the use of improper footwear, crushing or hitting the toe, carrying out activities that injure the nail, such as some sports or artistic disciplines, can cause toenails .

Fungal toenail pain

The nail of the big toe can also be bothersome when it has been infected with a fungus. This condition is called onychomycosis and it can affect any fingernail or toenail. Like onychocryptosis, it is very common in the toenails as they are more exposed to conditions of humidity and heat that favor the appearance of fungi.

When a fungus infects the nail bed or the surrounding skin, a series of transformations occur in the nail. At first, it changes color and becomes yellowish and opaque. As the infection progresses, the nail continues to alter, becoming thicker and more brittle. Although at first this is not painful, as the nail is affected, pain can occur due to its friction on the shoe or because it becomes ingrown or even detached completely. You can find out in more detail in the article Does nail fungus hurt?

On the other hand, there are some very rare pathologies that can cause pain in the nail of the big toe. Among these are some skin diseases such as psoriasis or melanoma around the nail, the latter is very rare. Some benign tumors on the surface of the skin or in internal tissues and even nerve disorders could also be the cause of pain in the nail of the big toe.

What to do if my big toe nail hurts?

It is always advisable to consult with your family doctor or specialist if you have any discomfort. He will be the most indicated to examine your finger and indicate the appropriate treatment. If, in addition, you are diabetic, suffer from poor circulation in your legs or have any symptoms of a finger infection, see your doctor immediately.

The treatment of ingrown nails depend on the state in which the problem is found. If you are in the early stages, surely a podiatrist will be able to make a proper cut and remove the piece of ingrown toenail. If there is an infection, the doctor may prescribe antibiotics to eliminate it. A second session with the podiatrist will be essential to check that the nail is growing properly within its natural limits.

When the infection is very severe, it must be treated with an antibiotic. In addition, a small surgery is usually performed under local anesthesia to remove the granuloma and redefine the groove of the nail. This seeks to prevent the nail from re-ingrown. Once the skin of the finger has healed, it will be necessary to monitor the growth of the nail to ensure that it grows normally without ingrown.

If the problem of the ingrown toenail is not treated, it can become so serious that in some occasions the infection reaches the bone. Once the nail has healed, it will be very important to determine why it is incarnated in order to prevent it from becoming a recurring situation.

In cases of onychomycosis , the nail is usually treated with antifungal remedies that are applied directly to the nail or the doctor may even prescribe antifungal drugs taken in cases where the infection is very advanced. In addition to these medications, it will be necessary to take into account the same recommendations to restore the nail as in cases of ingrown toenail.

This article is merely informative, at FastlyHeal .com we do not have the power to prescribe medical treatments or make any type of diagnosis. We invite you to see a doctor in the case of presenting any type of condition or discomfort.

If you want to read more articles similar to Why does my big toe nail hurt , we recommend that you enter our Skin, Hair and Nails category .

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