Although toenail problems sound like minor maladies to the uninitiated, anyone who's ever suffered from a toenail growth problem knows otherwise. Conditions like brittle nails, toenail fungus or ingrown nails can cause tenderness, unsightliness, pain and even serious infection if neglected. While home treatments often prove effective, see your doctor if your nail growth problem continually plagues you or if you see signs of serious infection.
Poorly growing nails are brittle, discolored or simply slow to grow. Ingrown toenails cause pain, which can be severe. You may also see redness, swelling and signs of infection. Toenail fungus shows itself as stunted nail growth, discoloration or through split and brittle nails.
Poor nutrition, fungal infections and genetics may lead to toenail growth problems. Poorly fitting shoes, stubbing your toes and cutting your nails too short or in curved shape may lead to ingrown toenails.
Biotin, also known as vitamin H, is the nutrient most often linked to healthy nail growth. The University of Maryland Medical Center suggests you boost your biotin intake by eating more sardines, egg yolks, brewer's yeast, whole grains, bananas, nuts and legumes. If your nails show severe growth problems, ask your doctor about taking a biotin supplement.
Fighting Fungal Infections
Your doctor may prescribe an antifungal ointment to treat poorly growing nails which stem from toenail fungus. Herbalist Kathi Keville's natural home remedy combines vinegar with the essential oils lavender, tea tree and peppermint. Apply several times a day with a cotton swab.
Ingrown Nail Treatment
Most cases of ingrown nails heal with home treatment. Soak your foot several times a day in warm water to soften the surrounding skin and relieve swelling. Dry your feet and put a wisp of cotton under the nail to redirect growth. Antibiotic cream and bandages may help prevent infection. While the nail is painful, wear open-toed shoes. Over-the-counter pain medication may also help.
At their worst, ingrown toenails and nail fungus may lead to serious infection, including gangrene, warns MayoClinic.com. Patients with diabetes should be especially vigilant about preventing and treating ingrown toenails and infections. Seek medical attention if your nails or surrounding tissues become severely discolored, ooze pus or have wounds that won't heal. For more serious ingrown nail problems, your doctor may need to remove some of the toenail. Recurrence of the malady may prompt your doctor to remove both tissue and nail, which keeps the nail from re-growing in the problematic parts of the nail bed. Infections may prompt your doctor to prescribe oral or topical medication.
Trim your nails regularly, but keep the cut moderate. The tips of the nails should be even with the toes themselves. Make sure your shoes fit properly. Fight fungal infections by keeping your feet as dry as possible and using medicated foot powders. Get plenty of rest and a varied diet that includes biotin-rich foods.