Medical questions & health advice by board certified doctors
"Why does my toenail look dead?"
I'm a 25 year old female, and I have a toenail that looks like it's dead. A few years ago I had surgery for an ingrown toenail and now it is discolored. I've tried to use antibacterial cream rubbing and alcohol to stimulate it but nothing works. It doesn't hurt or bother me, but I don't want to lose my toenail. It is thicker than my other toenails and when I trim it the smell is just awful. I don't know want to do about this problem.
Unfortunately, it sounds a lot like you have a fungal infection of the toenail. Fungal infections of nails are very common, and they often occur when trauma happens to the nail, allowing the fungus to get up under the nail and begin to grow. This may have occurred when you had the ingrown toenail surgery, for example. Fungal infection of the nail will gradually lead to distortion and thickening of the nail, often with a gray to yellow discoloration. Often there can be an odor, just as you describe. Unfortunately, most over the counter antifungal cream, as well as numerous home remedies (such as tea tree oil, rubbing alcohol, etc) do not really work for nail fungal infections. This is because the fungus is so deep in the nail that these treatments cannot really reach it. The only real option you have is to take several months of an oral antifungal medication. These medications are available by prescription only, because they have a few side effects that need to be closely monitored by a doctor. I suggest setting up an appointment with your primary care doctor as soon as possible to confirm the diagnosis and to see if these medications are right for you.
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