What can be done to help thick and curled over toenails?

Patricia g. asked...

I know they say when ones fingernails grow over and turn under it can be a sign of lung cancer. Is the same true about toenails? My toenails are doing the very same thing and are very thick. My husband use to tease me that I needed a chainsaw to cut them. The skin is so dry and hard and nothing I have used seems to work at keeping them soft. What can I do to help with this problem?

Expert Answer

Jennifer Serafin, N.P. is a registered nurse and geriatric nurse practitioner at the Jewish Homes for the Aged in San Francisco.

Thick toenails are quite a common problem as people get older. Let me reassure you that your thick toenails are probably caused by a common fungal infection, not something as serious as lung cancer. The best way to evaluate your toenail problem is to be seen by a podiatrist. They can regularly cut your toenails, which can get really difficult (and dangerous!) when they get so thick.

The good news is that the fungal infection that causes this problem in your toenails can be treated with oral medication, but it sometimes takes up to 3 months to see results. While you take this medication, you may also need lab tests while you take this medication to be sure it doesn't stress your liver.

Another reason you should see a podiatrist is because the skin problems you mention in your feet as well. You may need some kind of cream to help with that, and the podiatrist can help with that too. Good luck!