To deal with the problem correctly, especially if the black nail does not tend to resolve spontaneously, it is important to consult a dermatologist, in order to rule out the presence of any disorders or diseases, sometimes even very serious ones: the careful examination and a An adequate medical history is essential for a precise diagnosis and for understanding how to deal with the disorder with the appropriate remedies and/or treatments.
What Is Meant By Black Nails?
The expression black nails means the discoloration of the nail bed which causes the nail to assume a black or dark brown pigmentation . This alteration can manifest itself in a diffuse way or with longitudinal bands and, depending on the causes, can involve one or more nails .
Nails: 5 Key Points
- What they are and what they are for: nails are skin appendages on the tips of the fingers and toes. Their function is to protect the exposed phalanges and limit distortion following mechanical stress .
- How they are made: the main constituent of nails is keratin , a filamentous protein, rich in sulfur , which is found in the hair and in the outermost layer of the epidermis , the stratum corneum . The keratin tissue is divided into several layers and gives the nail plate elasticity, flexibility and resistance.
- Structure : from an anatomical point of view, the nail is anchored to the underlying nail bed and creeps into the periungual groove that surrounds it ( perinychium ), but separates from this at the level of the free edge ( hyponichium ). At the opposite end is the nail root , an epithelial area not visible on the surface, as it is covered by the nail fold. The stratum corneum covering the first portion of the lamina, which emerges from the root, forms the so-called cuticle or eponychium .
- Nail color : the nail plate is naturally transparent , as a consequence of the absence of nuclei within the cells that make it up; the lunula , on the other hand, appears white due to the nuclei present in the distal matrix.
- What to pay attention to : nails represent an indicator of physical well-being : any chromatic or structural alterations can be the indicator of a local disorder ( onychopathy ) or a general malaise of the organism , including: aging , immune-based diseases, metabolic disorders , infections and malnutrition . Bad lifestyle habits can also affect nail health. Prolonged contact with water and the repeated use of solvents, soaps and detergents deplete, in particular, keratin, making nails more fragile. The smoke, excessively frequent and aggressive manicures and the habit of biting nails ( onychophagia ) often make the situation worse.
Causes Black Nails
The underlying causes of black nails are many: sometimes, the symptom is to be attributed to trauma (the most frequent reason) or to the onset of onychopathies ( nail diseases ); in other cases, however, they signal disturbances and pathologies affecting different areas of the body , organs or tissues, the effects of which, however, also manifest themselves at the level of these skin annexes.
What Are The Possible Causes Of Black Nails?
A black toenail can be caused by:
- Sports injury or accidental trauma : Trauma to the nail can cause blood vessels under the nail plate to rupture ; the resulting blood extravasation turns the nail black . In addition to the traumas associated with the use of inadequate footwear , especially harmful during physical activity (*see the in-depth analysis in the following box in this regard), black nails can be the result of accidental trauma (violent blows against something, pinching fingers in a door, falling heavy objects, etc.). Following the aforementioned traumas – which can affect both the nails of thefeet , as well as those of the hands – what is commonly defined as a ” subungual hematoma ” is created and which gives the typical black color to the nail. This discoloration is caused by a pool of blood under the nail and is often associated with symptoms such as swelling and pain. Furthermore, in some cases, the trauma could be so severe as to lead to the detachment of the affected nail ( onycholysis ).
- Dermatological affections : psoriasis and eczema are just some of the skin diseases that can also appear at the level of the appendages, occasionally causing black nails.
- Fungal infections : the main and first symptom of onychomycosis is the chromatic alteration of the nail affected by the infection. In fact, the nail affected by mycosis, especially in its tip, tends to change its color generally fading from white to yellowish: the nail can sometimes have spots of different colors, such as brown, green and even black . To learn more, see → onychomycosis.
- Melanoma : This is the most serious form of skin cancer, often appearing as a misshapen dark brown spot. Melanoma can also arise in the nail beds, making part of the nail black.
- An underlying medical condition or medications : Diseases and disorders that may cause the nails to turn black include pernicious anemia , diabetes , hyperthyroidism , heart and kidney disease, folic acid deficiency , vitamin B12 deficiency , AIDS , Cushing’s syndrome , acromegaly and Addison’s disease . Finally, we remind you that even taking some drugs (including antimalarials and chemotherapy such as hydroxyurea and5-fluorouracil ) can cause discoloration of the nail plate.
* Black Nails In Those Who Practice Sports
Black nails can be a consequence of the practice – especially if regular or competitive – of some types of sport. In these cases, black nails usually occur due to repeated trauma .
A classic example of a sport that can lead to this unpleasant ailment is represented by running .
Among runners, in fact, black nails represent a condition that occurs frequently, particularly affecting the nails of the big toes .
The causes that cause this disorder are linked to injuries and traumas repeated over time: the small blood vessels found in the nail bed suffer damage, tearing themselves; if the lesion is very intense, the blood effusion could continue to below the nail plate: as a result, the nail appears black .
It is good to consider that it is not so much the run itself that causes the problem, but the use of unsuitable footwear , too tight or too big. If the shoe is too tight, the nail will be forced to go deep into the flesh; vice versa, if the shoe was too big, the toes they would be forced to move repeatedly, small traumas which added up over time could give rise to an evident hematoma.
Sometimes, the injuries reported are of such an entity as to cause the loss of the nail: in this case you should contact an expert and, subsequently, wait for the nail to strengthen and grow back on its own. It is clear, therefore, that the choice of shoe is absolutely fundamental in sport, not only to practice physical exercise at its best, but also for the well-being of feet and nails.
Black Nails: What To Do
Treatment Of Black Nails
The treatment of black nails, of course, varies according to the cause that caused its appearance.
- In cases where the disturbance is caused by trauma , it is usually advisable to apply ice , not so much to counteract the chromatic alteration, as to deflate the area and reduce the painful sensation. Over time, the hematoma will tend to reabsorb and the natural conditions of the nail will restore.
- If, on the other hand, black nails are the result of the use of unsuitable shoes (too wide or too narrow), then it is necessary to buy a shoe that is suitable for your foot and your needs.
- In cases of onychomycosis , on the other hand, the intervention of the doctor is necessary who will prescribe the administration of antifungal drugs locally (medicated nail polish or possibly creams) or systemically, depending on the severity and extent of the infection.
- Finally, if the black nails represent the symptom or the consequence of a basic pathology , the resolution of the disorder is closely connected to the treatment of the triggering disease. Therefore, even in these cases, medical intervention is absolutely necessary and essential.