Some people say that the eyes are the window to the soul, but as your Houston podiatrist, I’m here to tell you that a different part of your body can give you a true picture of your overall health: your toenails. And with Memorial Day weekend right around the corner, I figured this was the perfect time to have this discussion!

Toenails, you ask? How can one tiny part of my smallest appendage be an indication of my health? Well, not only can an unhealthy toenail lead to fungus, infection and generalized foot pain, your toenails can also indicate that you have a more serious condition; the color of your toenail could tell me that you have a heart condition, diabetes, or kidney, lung or liver disease.  Healthy toenails pave the way for an overall healthier you!

Tips for Maintaining Healthy Toenails

Now that you know how important healthy toenails are, let’s review the best way to keep them in tip-top condition. Proper maintenance is the key to toenail health; when you shower, carefully clean your feet, toes and toenails individually.  Always trim your nails in a timely and careful fashion to avoid problems like ingrown toenails.  Make sure to look at your toenails regularly and take note of any abnormalities in color or shape.

If you notice anything strange on or around your toenail, you should call my office immediately. Even if your toenail doesn’t hurt yet, as I mentioned before, any type of discoloration or abnormality in the toe could lead to foot pain or be an indication of a more serious problem affecting your body, so it deserves quick attention.

Don’t just shrug off a strange color or spot on your nail—if it’s black or blue, it could mean you’re bleeding underneath the nail. If you have a dark spot that doesn’t move as your nail grows, it probably means that you have an infection underneath the nail and you may need surgery to correct the problem.

I know that surgery sounds daunting, but let's examine what's really involved in toenail or foot surgery. 

How Long Will I Be out of Commission After Foot or Nail Surgery?

When it comes to surgery on your toenails, your downtime will likely be limited: expect to be in a soft boot for several days, avoiding strenuous physical activity for up to a week. But what about when surgery is performed on your toes, feet or ankles?

The answer depends on the scope of your injury or surgery.  Bones takes 6-8 weeks to heal. It's a physiological process and is just the way it is. Even at 8 weeks, the bone isn't fully healed. It is clinically healed well enough for you to start to return to normal walking and ultimately exercise. It really takes bone a full year to completely heal back to full strength. Yet so many people think that they'll be back to running three weeks after surgery. It is just not realistic!

When you come to our office with an injury, such as a sprained ankle or foot fracture, or we are discussing surgery, I will tell you the real estimate for recovery and healing. I will not tell you what you want to hear. That will only frustrate you when reality sets in and healing takes longer. My patients tell me that they appreciate knowing the actual timeframe, since it allows them to prepare properly for being out of commission. My surgical patients tell me that they know what to expect around every corner, because we covered it so thoroughly when we discussed it before surgery.

Of course, if you want to avoid surgery, proper foot and nail care is of utmost importance. The bottom line is that your toenails are more than just retainers for nail polish or pesky appendages that need to be trimmed all the time. They are an important part of your body deserving of care and attention; with that said, if you suspect you have a toenail infection or notice anything unusual about your toes, schedule an appointment at Tanglewood Foot Specialists to keep the ‘window of your body’ in healthy working order. 

Dr. Andrew Schneider
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A podiatrist and foot surgeon in Houston, TX.
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