Why Do The Elderly Get Thick Toenails?

With age, we often wonder about changes in our body. As related to the feet, one question is why do the elderly get thick toenails? The answer: Cell build up. 


Gray hair and wrinkles aren’t the only two major signs of aging. If you look at your feet, you’ll see another. But why do the elderly get thick toenails? According to Pulaski, TN, podiatrist Dr. Danielle Malin, the answer is oncocytes, which is just a fancy word to say that cells pile up as growth slows down.

Other reasons for toenail thickening


If you notice that your toenails are thicker than usual, you might want to contact your podiatrist. However, there’s probably no reason to be alarmed if you know and understand the reasons behind this unusual, if natural, change.


Micro damage is one reason that toenails may be thicker than fingernails as you age. Tiny traumas to the feet from stubbed toes, overuse, and poorly-fitted shoes can contribute to increased toenail thickness. Likewise, fungal infections that leave the nails brittle and discolored can also add height to average toenails.


Poor circulation can also leave the toenails thicker. This is especially prevalent in patients with diabetes, who should already have a relationship with their podiatrist. The Pulaski-based foot foot and ankle specialist notes that diabetes can contribute to circulatory issues as well as neuropathy in diabetic patients.


Poor hydration can also lead to thicker, drier toenails that are likely to crack and chip more often. This is exacerbated by the body’s naturally diminished capacity to stay hydrated. People with nail disorders or a genetic predisposition to issues with the fingernails or toenails may also be more at risk of developing thicker nails as they age.

How to reduce toenail thickening


Your first course of action is to schedule a visit with your podiatrist. This way, an expert can inspect your feet and toenails to make sure there’s nothing more serious going on other than just age or long-term stress. Your doctor may recommend many options, including improving the hygiene of your feet, using antifungal medications, or, in some cases, toenail surgery.


Ask your doctor whether getting your nails trimmed or having routine pedicures can help. Pedicures may not be recommended for people with damaged feet or with certain health conditions.

When do I need surgery?


Toenail removal surgery isn’t as traumatic as it might sound. And, in many cases, the entire toenail doesn’t have to be removed, only the affected parts. Your podiatrist might recommend toenail removal surgery if your toes experience severe trauma or if you have fungal infections that just don’t go away. Fortunately, nail removal is a fairly simple in-office procedure, and you’ll be back on your feet within a day or two.

Thick toenails are nothing to be concerned about. However, you should never be afraid to contact your podiatrist if you have questions. Although it’s likely just a simple side effect of age, your doctor can help rule out any underlying issues so that you can keep healthy feet throughout  all of your ages.


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