Recently, I posted on my blog about how you need to take care of yourself if you're going to be in a position to take care of others. Today, I’m going to flip the script a little on you:
Sometimes you need to help me if I’m going to help you.
I have an array of tools in my proverbial toolbox to help you overcome foot and ankle issues, but the simple fact of the matter is that most treatments work better and take less time when delivered at the earliest possible opportunity.
That should probably make sense. After all, it’s usually ideal to address any problem before it has the chance to become severe. It’s easier to put out a campfire instead of a 10,000 acre inferno, after all.
And this is particularly true in the medical field.
Now, with regards to issues in the lower limbs, an area where early intervention is especially beneficial is with toenail conditions like toenail fungus, ingrown nails, subungual hematoma, and acral-lentiginous melanoma.
Why You Need to Treat Fungal Nails Early
There’s a staggering amount of microscopic fungi in the environments around all of us and it’s easy to pick up these fungal spores.
If they end up under your nails, they find a very hospitable environment and the organisms begin to grow and multiply. This slowly damages the hard keratin tissue that makes up your nails.
Over time, the nail becomes thickened, discolored, brittle, ragged, and generally unsightly. Sometimes, the infection can even cause a foul odor as well.
Regarding your feet providing “a hospitable environment,” fungus needs warmth and dampness to survive. What it doesn’t need is sunlight or a dry environment. As such, warm, sweaty feet trapped in socks and shoes create desirable locations for this particular microorganism.
Since your feet contain hundreds of thousands of sweat glands, it’s easy to see how this can be such a common problem.
In addition to being a common infection, a case of fungal toenails is also a stubborn one.
The offensive fungus is not going away on its own. And why would it? It’s similar to if you having access to a free mansion with all the food and drink you could ever want, and no one cared if you trashed the place during your stay.
In this case, we aren’t talking about a mansion being trashed, but your toenails.
Due to the infection, they become discolored, brittle, thickened, crumbly, and distorted. It’s not a pretty picture.
The key to preventing a severe case of toenail fungus is to address the problem in the early stages. In fact, the success rate for treatment is significantly higher when the entire nail isn’t taken over.
That’s probably easy to see. (It’s a heck of a lot easier to kick 3 punks out of your mansion than 35,000.)
At this point it bears noting that, along with early intervention, consistency is key for successful fungal toenail treatment. It may take around a year to a year-and-a-half to completely clear the nail, but you must keep with the program.
Don’t Let Ingrown Nails Grow Too Far In
Having just talked about infection, let’s switch our focus to a condition that can contribute to it—ingrown toenails.
In this case, an edge or corner of a nail becomes wider and starts to grow into the skin, flanking it. As it does, the irritated or pierced skin provides opportunity for microorganisms to enter the body.
This is a concerning situation for just about anyone, but it can be downright dangerous for those who are diabetic.
Diabetes is a serious disease; one that compromises many body systems, including the immune system.
With a compromised immune system, your body has an impaired ability to fight off infections. You would normally rely on this system to attack foreign invaders, but this doesn’t happen with elevated sugar levels and the infection continues to worsen.
Another system often impacted by diabetes is the nervous system.
When diabetic neuropathy takes away your sense of touch in the lower limbs, you can’t feel when a toenail becomes ingrown. This highlights the importance of daily foot inspections in a proper diabetic foot care plan. (It also shows why I say “pain is a gift.”)
Relieving Pressure from Subungual Hematoma
If you aren’t in the running community, you might not be aware of this fact—some runners consider black toenails to be a “badge of honor” of sorts.
In the event you’re just learning this, that might seem like an odd thing. Why would someone be proud of toenails that are discolored?
Well, it stems from the fact that one of the causes of black toenails is bleeding or bruising of the nailbed (subungual hematoma).
Bleeding and bruising are caused by physical trauma. In this case, the trauma is toenails repeatedly hitting the front of running shoes. The more steps you take, the more physical trauma there is on a runner’s toenails.
Since it takes considerably more steps to run 27.2 miles (for marathoners who “go the extra mile”…) than it does the 20 feet to get to the couch and back before the commercial break is over, black toenails prove you’ve been putting in your miles.
The problem with this training proof is that the pooled blood can come with a buildup of pressure (since it’s trapped underneath toenails). This can certainly be painful, which is bad enough, but it can also cause the nail to come off completely. This type of injury almost always guarantees fungus involvement.
Instead of letting the problem get to that point, you can come in as soon as you notice this issue has developed and have it taken care of in a safe manner.
Another consideration for having a black toenail looked at early is because sometimes the problem isn’t subungual hematoma—and especially if we’re talking about black streaks.
Acral-Lentiginous Melanoma is Serious Business
If you’re a returning patient (or you’ve taken time to watch some of my videos on Facebook), you know you can expect a certain degree of humor at my practice, but acral-lentiginous melanoma (ALM) always has us put the humor off to the side.
Sometimes when you see a discolored toenail—and particularly if you observe a dark streak under the nail—the core issue is this serious form of cancer.
In particular, you should contact us for the earliest possible appointment if:
- You observe a streak that isn’t caused by any accident or physical trauma
- The streak has actually damaged the nail
- The discoloration is a spot that changes in size, shape, or color
Actually, it’s always best to come see us for professional diagnosis whenever you come across something that is abnormal.
Most of the time, we are fortunate to let you know that it isn’t a major issue. In those rare cases where the problem is, in fact, something as serious as ALM, you may be able to receive treatment in the earliest stages—when success is more likely.
“Don’t Put Off Until Tomorrow What You Can Do Today” – Benjamin Franklin
Follow the advice of one of our nation’s greatest forefathers and don’t procrastinate—have your toenail issues diagnosed and treated at the earliest opportunity.
Doing so can lead to more effective treatment, less pain and complications, and potentially even save your life.
All things considered, that’s not a bad deal, so contact us as soon as you become aware of issues like these in your toenails. Simply give us a call at (317) 545-0505 or connect with us online today!