Thick toenails may be caused by several issues, from outer trauma to more serious internal conditions, but they are also universally common in the aging population. Toenails that have grown thicker over time likely indicate a fungal infection, also known as onychomycosis. This fungal infection causes nails to thicken, discolor, disfigure, and split. At first, onychomycosis appears to be only a cosmetic concern. Without treatment, however, the toenails can become so thick that they press against the inside of the shoes, causing pressure, irritation, and pain.
How do I prevent thick, yellow toenails?
Avoid injury to your toenails
Since a crack in your toenail is one of the most common ways that a nail fungus begins to take root, lessen any activities that risk toenail damage (or at least make sure your feet are well-protected).
Wear well-fitting shoes
Make sure plenty of space exists between the end of your shoe and the tip of your longest toe. This extra space helps prevent damage to your toenails caused by any shock or impact. Also look for shoes with thick, rigid soles, extra arch support and firm rearfoot control. Check out aetrex.com for some great footwear solutions.
Avoid shoes or boots that trap and retain moisture.
Keep your feet dry by changing your socks if they become wet or damp, and leave your shoes out in dry places when you’re not wearing them.
Use thongs or flip-flips in public places to avoid contact with fungi. To be especially careful, you may even want to avoid walking barefoot anywhere, even around your house or yard.
Clip your toenails regularly to avoid cracking or chipping.
Try the following treatments to cure this fungal toenail condition
Spray your shoes with an over-the-counter topical anti-fungal spray. Fungal spores that remain in your shoes can reinfect your nails if you’re not careful. You can use sprays with solutions such as Lamisil or Tinactin. (Avoid antifungal powders, since they tend to deteriorate the soles of shoes rather quickly.)
Use nail gels, oils, or other solutions that help break down and clean out the keratin debris that builds up underneath your nails. Keratin is the material your body creates to make skin, hair, and nails, and it’s this debris that often causes the discoloring of your toenails.
Use topical liquid or cream treatments that contain over-the-counter antifungal medicines such as Tolnaftate.
Take oral antifungal medications, but be careful about their strength. Since fungal infections require strong medication, you could experience adverse side effects.
Clean your socks regularly. When wearing socks, make sure they are dry.
Rotate your shoes so that you’re not wearing the same ones every day. Give each pair of shoes at least 24 hours to dry out, and wear them every other day.
Thoroughly dry your feet between your toes, especially after a shower or activities that cause you to sweat.
If the fungus or thick yellow toenails persist despite your own treatment attempts, we recommend that you see a podiatrist for additional treatment. Since there are 17 different organisms that can cause nail fungus, your podiatrist can work with you to find the right customized treatment.