Your feet – indicators of health.

Because they are so far away from our heart, our feet are often the first part of the body to show something is wrong with the way blood circulate in our body. The condition of our toenails can signal the presence or beginning of several diseases. For example, toenails that are hollow instead of being rounded can indicate iron deficiency or anaemia (a shortage of red blood cells). Increased nail thickness, or bumps on the nail, can be manifestations of psoriasis, a skin disease. Your podiatrist / chiropodist will always check the condition of your toenails, and can provide a range of treatments for all your toenail problems.

Our toenails

The major parts of the toenail are: the nail itself (or the nail plate); its matrix, from where the nail grows; the lunula, the white, moon-shaped area at the base of the nail; the nail bed, or the tissue on which the nail lies, and the sulcus or the groove at the side in which the nail sits.

Healthy nails are pink, free of dirt and impairment, and grow into the grooves normally. Toenails grow constantly. It takes up to 12 months to replace the toenail of your big toe.

Who gets nail problems?

Toe nails of people of all ages can undergo a range of changes, some of which are relatively common. They can become thick, brittle, curved, discoloured, infected, clubbed, bumpy and grooved. In some cases, the nail falls off and a new one grows in. As we grow older, we are more likely to develop toenail problems.

What causes nail problems?

 Toenail problems may be caused by warts, tumours under the nail, infection, or poor circulation. Major toenail problem culprits are incorrectly fitting shoes, which press too tightly on the toenails. Injury, such as bruising under the nail and infection can cause permanent nail deformity.

Taking care of your nails

• Trim toenails straight across to a length just below the end of the toe. Do not round off the corners – this can cause ingrown toenails.

• Use a strong pair of nail clippers.

• After clipping, smooth nails with a file or emery board, using downward strokes.

• Wear only properly fitted shoes, not short or narrow ones.

• Wash feet regularly, especially between the toes, and dry thoroughly.

• Wear socks or stockings that are not too restrictive.