Black Toe

Medical Considerations for Black Toe

If the black or discolored nail is the result of a fungal infection, an oral or systemic antifungal medication is often prescribed, instead of or in addition to a topical treatment.

If pain persists or swelling occurs, a doctor may need to relieve the pressure of the blood underneath the damaged nail or remove the nail altogether.

Severe discomfort in the toe and/or pus or redness that seems to be spreading can be signs of infection. See your doctor; left unattended, an infection can spread throughout the foot and into the bones.

People with diabetes or compromised circulation in the lower extremities should never try to treat toenail injuries (or any other foot problems) on their own, especially if there is any indication of possible infection or ulceration. See your doctor promptly.

If there are indications of subungual melanoma (lengthwise discoloration usually limited to all or a portion of the big toe nail), see your doctor or a foot specialist immediately. Because of the possibility of subungual melanoma, many experts advise seeing a doctor or foot specialist for all cases of black toe, simply to rule out the condition.

Also talk to your doctor if you have soreness, pain, redness, swelling or other indications of foot problems that persist for more than a few days.


Reviewed by: Robert P. Thompson, C.Ped, IPFH Scientific Advisory Board
Last updated: June 11, 2015 

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