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How to Successfully Treat a Bruised Toenail

Do you have a black toenail? This is usually caused by a toenail bruise.Here’s how to treat it so you can start wearing sandals again.

If you’re a runner, chances are you’ll deal with a bruised toenail or two at some point in your running career. Although bruised toenails are more common in people who run, you don’t necessarily have to be a runner to develop toenail bruising. Soccer players are also susceptible due to the trauma of repeatedly kicking the soccer ball. Any way you look at it, bruised toenails are not pretty and they can be painful. They usually turn an unattractive shade of black or dark blue and can be quite disfiguring, especially if you wear open toed shoes or sandals.

What causes the toenails to bruise and turn a dark color? Toenail bruises usually result from repetitive trauma to the feet and toes due to excessive running or wearing shoes that are too tight during physical activity. This usually occurs after buying a new pair of running shoes that haven’t been broken in or after running a marathon. Downhill running can also cause toenail bruises since the big toe is forced against the tip of the running shoe which causes excessive trauma. Another cause of bruised toenails are toenails that haven’t been trimmed properly before undertaking physical activity. The ugly, black color that results when a toenail is bruised is a consequence of blood collecting underneath the nail plate.

Although unattractive to look at, a black toenail may or may not be painful. The degree of pain that’s experienced depends upon whether there is significant fluid build-up behind the affected nail. Fluid pressure can cause irritation and pain in the toe which makes wearing shoes very uncomfortable. In cases where there’s significant pain, your doctor can make a small hole in the nail to allow fluid drainage and relieve the excess pressure behind the nail. Complete removal of the black toenail may also be recommended. A new toenail will grow back in four to six months.

If a bruised toenail is painless, no treatment may be necessary. As the bruised skin underneath the nail starts to heal, separation of the toenail from the nail bed may occur causing the toenail to fall off. Although you may not feel comfortable wearing sandals, fresh toenail will replace it in about five months. Avoid pulling the nail off if it starts to separate. It’s best to allow the toenail loss to occur naturally.

To prevent future black toenails, select running and exercise shoes that fit properly and keep your toenails well trimmed. Be sure to wear socks and make sure the laces of your running shoes are tight to prevent slippage of the foot in your running shoe. If you develop a black toenail that’s unassociated with running or trauma or if you notice severe redness or swelling of a toe, it’s important to see your doctor or podiatrist to rule out other foot problems.

A bruised toenail can be a frustrating problem. After running or excessive exercise, make it a habit to inspect your toes for any areas of redness, discoloration, or swelling. Being alert to toenail problems early can help to prevent future foot discomfort and loss of running time.

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  1. Thanks for the slew of information on how to TREAT a bruised toenail!! “Wait for it to fall off”…brilliant!! To think that people scoffed when you said you were pursuing your medical degree from El Universidad de Guadalajara.

  2. Thanks im feeling really sad because i dont like showing my feet and i dont know what to do, my toenail is lose but its still there i can lift it up and see inside it a little but it is still stuck on, what shall i do ?

  3. on my big toe on my left foot i have a bruise on the left side of the toe. i think it happened when someone trood on my toe when i was playing football.it doesnt hurt but ive noticed that the bruise is under the nail and seems to be seperating itself from the nail. is this normal. should i encourage it to seperate or wait to see what happens.

  4. I wore to small shoes going to the gym and after that my big toe was hurt and unable to be moved. That was in april or early may and now in June i realized that it had turned black, and a few weeks later I realized that the toe nail was separating from the toe. It doesn’t hurt, but I want to know what do I do… Should I go to the podiatrist?

  5. i hurt my big toenail on my left foot on the right side of my nail when i was younger and although i am older now i still have pain. is it too late to have a doctor place a small hole in my nail to relieve the pain and maybe return my nail to normal?

  6. i have a gang green toe nail, and it is hanging off my toe, it is very pan ful and i am scared to show my girlfriend it incase she is sick. what should i do ?

  7. Steven, It’s called Gangrene and it’s a very serious condition! You can get a systemic reaction called Septicemia or “infection in the blood stream” which may require an amputation of your foot! I suggest you get to a physician and hope the problem isn’t beyond treatment.

  8. help us!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! will our toes have to be amputated?

  9. Hey, a couple of months back i was wearing shoes a little too small while running at the gym causing only half my big toenail to bruise. I stopped wearing the small shoes right away and left the toe to heal. The discolouration stayed and separation of the toe nail did occur, but only for the half. I have recently trimmed the discoloured separated part and with it the colour went. Turns out it was mostly dried blood. But be very careful with trimming the bruised part of the nail and don’t trim the un-bruised part or force separation as this can be very painful and can lead to infection!
    So from a normal distance the toe looks normal again at a glance, although half the nail is missing, however this should grow back to normal within 6 months. I hope this helps others with the same problem, it seems there are a few of us with only half the toenail bruised.

  10. I have what I think is a bruised toe nail. It is black and partly lifted off the skin at the bottom. I first got the injury a few years ago when someone trod quite heavily on my foot. At that time only half of the nail was affected and I was told that eventually the nail will drop off. The blackness is spreading now so that its nearly covering the whole nail and the nail still has not fallen off. Does it normally take this long and if not is it time to visit a doctor/podiatrist about it?

  11. Had many of these, they usually result in the toe nail separating after a few months, perhaps a month or two after it turns black. Usually the nail comes off and a new nail bed is already formed and will harden in a few days. I have had a few cases where half the toe nail was black and separated. This sucked as the half that was not black was healthy and so it was painful and I had to cut it back to the living area and then it took a good long time, something like six months to fully heal. When I cut it, it smelled rotten as there was dead tissue under the nail. I cleaned well with soap water and used some antibiotic ointment and it was fine though tender for a few days. My best advice is to put some tape over it and leave it be for as long as it takes. I received all my injuries playing soccer over a 20 year period. By the way there is nothing that you can do for it once it turns black. The black is blood under the nail and it will cause the nail bed to die. Once dead the nail bed separates from the nail and starts to heal and form a new one. The only way you don’t lose your nail is for the bruise to be small and local to one part of the nail. If enough is alive it will just grow out.

  12. This condition is also known as ship foot.

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ship_foot

  13. I lost my toenail from playing ultimate frisbee. Only half of the toenail was coming off, and I was dumb and cut that part of my nail right off. Now its very tender and I have another tournament to play in one week. What can I do to protect my toe from infection or to keep it from hurting during the tournament? Im sure it will unavoidably get jammed again into the front of my cleat.

  14. It’s been 4 months since my big toenail became bruised due to walking all day at Disneyland with shoes that were to SMALL! Last night my toe started hurting an mildly throbbing. I noticed this morning that at the tip of my toe the nail is lifting but the bruising is at the top base of my toe.
    Do I need to see a doctor?
    Or will the throbbing soon stop and the toenail will just fall off all together?
    Should I just not worry and let it take it’s course?
    If I do go to the doctor will he take off my toenail and will it hurt ALOT?

    I appreciate all suggestions :-)

  15. It\’s been 4 months since my big toenail became bruised due to walking all day at Disneyland with shoes that were to SMALL! Last night my toe started hurting an mildly throbbing. I noticed this morning that at the tip of my toe the nail is lifting but the bruising is at the top base of my toe.
    Do I need to see a doctor?
    Or will the throbbing soon stop and the toenail will just fall off all together?
    Should I just not worry and let it take it\’s course?
    If I do go to the doctor will he take off my toenail and will it hurt ALOT?

    I appreciate all suggestions :-)

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