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Nine tips for keeping your toenails healthy this summer

Loyola podiatrist says improper care can cause discoloration and blisters

MAYWOOD, Ill. (June 2, 2014) – People want their toenails to look great in the summer. But many people allow their toenails to grow too long, which can cause discoloration, blisters and other problems, according to Loyola University Medical Center podiatrist Dr. Coleen Napolitano.

If a toenail is allowed to grow too long, it can jam the end of the shoe, causing a microtrauma with each step, Napolitano said. Thousands of such microtraumas can discolor the toenail.

Repeated microtraumas also can lift the toenail off the nail bed. This can cause a blister to form under the toenail. It also can make the toenail more prone to fungal infections, which can lead to discoloration, thickening, brittleness and even loss of the toenail.
“By following a few simple guidelines, you can keep your toenails healthy while also looking great in sandals,” Napolitano said.

Napolitano offers these toenail tips:

  • The toenail should extend no farther than the end of the toe. So when cutting your toenail, leave only a sliver of white at the end of the nail. The toenail should be even shorter if you do high-impact activities such as running and Zumba classes.
  • If you polish your toenails, use a base coat. Painting your toenails red without a base coat can discolor the toenail.
  • It’s easier to cut your toenails after a shower, when the nails are softer.
  • After cutting your toenails, use an emery board to file away any sharp edges. File in one direction only – not back and forth.
  • Common toenail clippers, available at pharmacies, are inexpensive, but they can leave jagged edges, or cut too deeply. Nail nippers, which look somewhat like pliers and are available at beauty supply stories, cut with greater precision, but they also are more expensive.

If you go to a nail salon, Napolitano offers these tips:

  • Make sure the salon is clean. As a rule of thumb, if you would not feel comfortable walking around the salon barefoot, go somewhere else.
  • Ask how the salon cleans its instruments. The best method is autoclave, which sterilizes with high-pressure steam. Also acceptable is sterilizing equipment in a solution. With either method, equipment must be sterilized after each use.
  • If you have open sores, do not use the whirlpool footbath.
  • Let the salon know if you are a diabetic or are taking a blood thinner.

Napolitano is an associate professor in the Department of Orthopaedic Surgery & Rehabilitation at Loyola University Chicago Stritch School of Medicine.

Loyola University Health System (LUHS) is a member of Trinity Health. Based in the western suburbs of Chicago, LUHS is a quaternary care system with a 61-acre main medical center campus, the 36-acre Gottlieb Memorial Hospital campus and more than 30 primary and specialty care facilities in Cook, Will and DuPage counties. The medical center campus is conveniently located in Maywood, 13 miles west of the Chicago Loop and 8 miles east of Oak Brook, Ill. The heart of the medical center campus is a 559-licensed-bed hospital that houses a Level 1 Trauma Center, a Burn Center and the Ronald McDonald® Children's Hospital of Loyola University Medical Center. Also on campus are the Cardinal Bernardin Cancer Center, Loyola Outpatient Center, Center for Heart & Vascular Medicine and Loyola Oral Health Center as well as the LUC Stritch School of Medicine, the LUC Marcella Niehoff School of Nursing and the Loyola Center for Fitness. Loyola's Gottlieb campus in Melrose Park includes the 255-licensed-bed community hospital, the Professional Office Building housing 150 private practice clinics, the Adult Day Care, the Gottlieb Center for Fitness, Loyola Center for Metabolic Surgery and Bariatric Care and the Loyola Cancer Care & Research at the Marjorie G. Weinberg Cancer Center at Melrose Park.

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