Why are My Toenails Dark?

As long as we are on the topic of nails, and the slings and arrows that they are heir to, let’s discuss, in the hallowed halls of this great and knowledgeable helping friendly blog, a question that is presented to me on average every day. And that is: Why are my nails dark? Read on, my dear NYC podiatry patients, and prepare to be enlightened on the darkening.

Well we can keep this one relatively short, and then I can refer to it in the office judiciously. Nails are a unit of the skin, and therefore grow from the skin. The pigment in the skin, melanin, not only provides pigmentation and complexion to the skin, it does so for the nails as well. So in darker complexion skin, the melanin will often become incorporated into the nails and appear as dark streaks or even complete darkening of the nail, a phenomenon known as melanonychia. This can happen starting early in life and is almost ubiquitous later in life.

Of course this has to be differentiated from other conditions that can cause discoloration of the nails, such as fungal infections of the nails, and a more devastating condition- melanoma of the nail bed. This latter condition, melanoma, will often present with one streak in one nail, but the full identification of nail bed melanoma, which is a very serious condition, is beyond the scope of this sacred blog, so if there is any doubt see your friendly neighborhood NYC podiatrist.

So remember kids, there’s still time before the summer to wipe out the little buggers that are eating away your nails and possibility of using open toed sandals this summer. If your nails are just dark, it’s probably melanonychia, and may not need to be seen but as the saying goes, when in doubt have @doctor.funguy check it out.

See you in the office.

Ernest Isaacson

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