Do Toenails Change as You Age?

Healthy toenails should remain largely unchanged throughout a person’s youth and midlife. Sure, they get longer and we’ve got to clip them if we want to avoid scratching the sheets at night. And every so often, a healthy toenail gets an obvious injury that causes change. If you drop a sack of potatoes on your big toe, you know the nail will probably turn black. Blood vessels beneath the nail bed burst open, leaving small pools of blood trapped there that appear black, or maybe purple or dark red.

Even if you haven’t injured your toe, you can expect subtle changes to your toenails simply as product of aging. Some normal changes in the elderly include:

  • Growth: on average, toenails grow at about 1 mm per month, but as a person ages, that growth rate can slow down up to .5% per year!
  • Thickness: nails may become thicker – or thinner.
  • Texture: nails can lose their smoothness, becoming more apt to split, crumble, or form ridges with age.
  • Coloring: many seniors find that their nails become yellowed with age, or opaque in color.

But older folks need to be aware that changes can indicate a problem. Ridges in your nails may be a normal result of aging, but it can also mean you’re not getting enough vitamins and minerals in your diet. Yellowed nails might be of no concern, or you might have a fungal infection. Toe deformities that are common with aging, such as hammertoes, claw toes, and bunions, can also affect toenails, causing them to become painfully ingrown.

Folks who’ve reached their golden years may have difficulty bending down to see their toenails. Vision problems make it hard to see what’s actually going on down there. Enter Heidi M. Christie, DPM and Chanda L. Day-Houts, DPM, the caring podiatrists at Montgomery Foot Care Specialists in Montgomery, Alabama. Dr. Christie and Dr. Day-Houts have the expertise to tell a normal yellowed nail from an infected one – but they’re also available for routine care that may be hard for seniors, such as trimming toenails.

Senior citizens are encouraged to give us a call at (334) 396-3668 with any concerns about their toenails or the feet they’re attached to. You can also contact us online.