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

6 answers | Last updated: Nov 26, 2015
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 Answers

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!

Community Answers

Christian answered...

Our trusted family podiatrist diagnosed a fungal infection in my mom's very thick toenails, and cited a study where Vicks-Vapo-Rub was applied to toenails once daily after the toenails are washed and dried. This helps my mom's toenails to stay thinner and treats the fungus.

A diabetic podiatrist uses a dremel tool with a diamond burr instrument to grind off the toenails periodically according to Medicare's schedule of benefits.

Ca-claire answered...

Once the podiatrist gets things under control, there are very good nail salons that take very good care of your feel and lower legs (usually massage is involved). It also is easy to get Saturday or Sunday appointments with the nail salons as well. You just need to be sure that the salon you choose does sterilze their tools after each client and sanitizes the spa chairs/foot soak tubs after each client.

A fellow caregiver answered...

I also have very thick, hard toe nails. I tend to sit in front of my computer and whilst I'm working (from home) I soak my feet for about an hour in warm water containing a softening bath gel. This really does soften my nails, then I can use small sharp manicure scissors to cut them. My toe nails are also curled over, so it can be a bit tricky, but regular cutting helps. I have also found a product called "Eulactol Heel Balm Gold" to be most effective for very dry feet. It's available at most pharmacies. It's well worth the expense. I was put onto this cream by a podiatrist. I hope this info helps.

A fellow caregiver answered...

@ the person who said they applied Vicks Vap-o Rub....i think one of the main ingredients is eucalyptus oil which treats the fungus

Treece answered...

vicks vapo rub worked for my nail fungus. took several weeks, but way cheaper than the oral meds for the same time period.