Thickened Toenails

Thickened Toenails: Understanding and Managing the Condition

In today’s fast-paced world, where personal health often takes a backseat to our bustling schedules, seemingly minor issues like thickened toenails can be easily overlooked. However, understanding and addressing these minor issues is crucial, as they can be symptomatic of larger health concerns. Thickened toenails, while often dismissed as merely a cosmetic annoyance, can sometimes signal underlying health issues that require attention. This article delves into the causes, treatments, and preventive measures for thickened toenails, emphasizing the importance of foot health in our overall wellbeing.

What Are Thickened Toenails?

Thickened toenails are exactly what they sound like: toenails that have become unusually thick, beyond what is considered normal. This condition is characterised by changes in the toenail’s colour, texture, and shape. Thickened toenails can turn yellow, become brittle, and even cause discomfort or pain when wearing shoes. Unlike the natural variation in nail thickness that can occur with aging, thickened toenails are often indicative of an underlying issue that needs to be addressed.

Why Do Toenails Thicken?

Several factors contribute to the thickening of toenails, each stemming from different causes:

  • Psoriasis: This skin condition is known for causing patches of red, itchy, and scaly skin, but it can also affect the nails. Toenails can become thickened, discoloured, and pitted in the presence of psoriasis. The condition results from an overactive immune system and can be triggered by stress, skin injuries, or infections.
  • Physical Damage: Trauma or repeated injury to the toenail, such as from tight-fitting shoes or dropping something heavy on your foot, can lead to thickening. The damage can cause the nail to grow abnormally, leading to thickening over time.
  • Fungal Infection: One of the most common causes of thickened toenails is a fungal infection. Fungi thrive in warm, moist environments, making the feet an ideal breeding ground. An infection can cause the toenail to become thick, discoloured, and sometimes smelly.
  • Other Causes: Aging can naturally lead to thicker toenails. Additionally, underlying medical conditions like diabetes or circulatory issues can contribute to this problem. Environmental factors and lifestyle choices, such as poor foot hygiene or constantly wet feet, can also cause toenails to thicken.
Thickened toe nails

How to Get Rid of Thickened Toenails

The approach to treating thickened toenails varies based on the underlying cause:

  • Professional Treatment Options: Treatment may involve antifungal medications, oral or topical, for fungal infections, or corticosteroids for psoriasis-related nail issues. In severe cases, laser treatment or surgical removal of the nail might be recommended by a healthcare provider.
  • Home Remedies & Over The Counter: Soaking the feet in a mixture of vinegar and water, applying tea tree oil, or using over-the-counter antifungal creams can help manage mild cases. It’s important, however, to consult with a healthcare professional before starting any treatment to ensure it’s appropriate for your specific situation.

How to Prevent Thickening Toenails

Preventing thickened toenails involves simple, yet effective foot care practices:

  • Foot Care Tips: Regularly cleaning and thoroughly drying your feet, trimming nails straight across, and avoiding cutting them too short can prevent nail damage and infections.
  • Choose The Right Footwear: Shoes that fit well and provide plenty of room for the toes can prevent unnecessary pressure on the toenails, reducing the risk of thickening due to physical trauma.
  • Importance of Dry Feet & Nail Care: Keep your feet dry, changing socks daily and give them plenty of air as warmth and sweat encourage fungi. Using antifungal products can significantly reduce the risk of fungal infections. If you have an outbreak of athlete’s foot, treat it quickly and effectively so it doesn’t spread to the nails.
  • Nail Varnish: It is tempting to use nail varnish to disguise the nail but nails need to breathe, so if you have to use nail varnish, use it for a short period only, removing as soon as possible.

When Should I Seek Medical Advice?

If your thickened toenails are accompanied by severe pain, discharge, or a foul odour, it’s important to consult a healthcare professional. Additionally, if over-the-counter treatments and home remedies don’t improve the condition, or if you have diabetes or poor circulation, seeking medical advice is crucial.

If the thickened nail causes pain or if you have difficulty wearing shoes it may be wise to visit a chiropodist and have the nail reduced in thickness painlessly with an electric nail drill.


Thickened toenails, while often a benign condition, can sometimes be a sign of more serious health issues. Understanding the causes, treatments, and preventive measures is essential for maintaining overall foot health and by extension, our general wellbeing. With proper care and attention, thickened toenails can be effectively managed, ensuring both the health and appearance of your feet are preserved.

Thickened toenails can be painful, especially if the thickened nail rubs against the top of the shoe. Try protecting toes with Profoot’s Toe Protector as it surrounds, cushions and thus protects sore toes from external pressure. The medical grade mineral oil enriched gel will also soften and moisturise, helping to reduce hard skin build up.

Some Profoot products to help with Thickened Toenails: