Ask The Experts

I have a blackened toenail on the big toe of my right foot. It hasn't caused me any pain yet, but would it be wise to have a doctor remove it so it could not cause any other health problems?

Thank you for contacting IPFH. We do not diagnose conditions or make medical recommendations on line. The answer to your question is that you should consult a medical professional - not necessarily to have the nail removed, but to get a diagnosis on what is causing it. Typically a black toenail is not a serious condition, but there is one situation when it is: a subungual melanoma. This is an aggressive form of skin canceer, and it is rare, but it is definitely smart to get your toe checked to eliminate the possibility.

Most often black toenail is the result of trauma to the nail or the toe - basically a bruise under the nail. Typically it is the result of the toe "banging" against the shoe or of undue pressure placed on the toe by your footwear. If the bruising is severe enough, often the nail will loosen, and come off on its own (this may take a while). If there is no damage to the nail plate, the nail will grow back (this usually takes four to six months). Another common cause of black toenail is a fungal infection.

Again, the best course of action for you to take is to consult your primary care physician or a foot health professional. He or she can determine what is causing the black toenail, and can then make any appropriate treatment recommendations (which may or may not include removing the nail). You can learn more about black toenail at our page on the subject. We hope this information is helpful, and we wish you the best.

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