What Causes Thick Toenails: 7 Genuine Reasons

what causes thick toenails.
image source: Hans / Pixabay

Well-groomed nails add to your beauty and, your nails also reflect many underlying medical conditions. Often people complain about thick overgrown toenails that hurt them and cause discomforts in walking.

what causes thick toenails.
image source: Logga Wiggler / Pixabay

But what causes thick toenails is the issue. There are other possible reasons for thick toenails. One of them is onychauxis, and it is a condition in which fingernails or toenails grow thick and painful at times.

Before we understand what causes thick toenails, let’s know a little about the structure of nails.

Understand Structure Of Your Nails

To know what causes thick toenails, one must be aware of nail structure or anatomy. Nail is a unit that composes of

  1. Nail matrix: It is the starting point of your finger and toenails. From this point, your nails grow and not from the tip. The nail matrix generates new skin cells to push out old cells and, this helps in the healthy growth of your nails.
  2. Nail plate: Made of keratin protein which gives translucent color to nails. It is what we all call nails “the hard part.”
  3. Nail bed: The pinkish color part under the nail plate is the nail bed.
  4. Lunula: The crescent moon shapes at the starting (matrix) of the nails.
  5. Nail folds The tissues that secure the nail matrix and attach it to the skin cuticle.
  6. Cuticle: The transparent skin that appears at the starting of your nails or the matrix.

What Causes Thick Toenails?

what causes thick toenails.
image source: Nataliya Vaitkevich / Pexels

If you are also experiencing thick toenails, one of the following reasons could be the culprit.

1. As You Grow Older, Your Nails Grow Thicker.

Age factors affect the thickness of the toenails. Often in old age, people experience a change in thickness, color, growth, and shape of nails. Changes occur in your nails because of the following reasons.

  • With aging, there is an increase in calcium content, and iron content in nails reduces.
  • Thickening of blood vessels and elastic tissue happens at the nail dermis.
  • The growth of nails decreases at 0.5 % per year between 20-100 years.

2. Poor Blood Circulation In Feet Or Peripheral Arterial Disease.

Another reason for what causes thick toenails is poor blood circulation or PAD ( peripheral arterial disease.) It develops when blood flow is not proper in the legs which, causes a lack of oxygen in the legs. It causes pain in the legs and changes in toenail color and thick toenails.

3. Onichocomysis Or Fungal Infections

what causes thick toenails.
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Your thickened toenail could be representative of underlying fungal infections onichocomysis. It is a common condition and, almost 20% of the population suffers in general. People of elderly age are more prone to it. Around 20% of above 60 years and 50 % of 70 years have complained about thickened toenails.

It has another name Tinea unguium, caused by pathogens dermatophyte fungi. Toenails appear yellow and thick because of this fungal infection.

4. Nail Psoriasis

In psoriasis, skin becomes red itchy, and flaky. It also causes skin inflammation. People who have skin psoriasis are more prone to nail psoriasis.

By sweetheart studio/Shutterstock.com

Nail psoriasis can make your fingernails and toenails look thick nails can lift and detach from the matrix. It also begins discoloration or, black and brown lines appear on nails. There could be blood signs beneath your nails.

5. Onychogryphosis Or Ram’s Horn Nails

Onychogryphosis makes slow growth of nail plate. It makes the toenail change color and become yellow, accompanied by increased thickness and, toenails become more curved. Due to thickened nails and extra curve nails resemble claws or horns.

Ram's Horn Nails
By A7880S/Shutterstock.com

Diabetic people and ones with poor blood circulation in the legs are more prone to ram’s horn nail or onychogryphosis.

6. Paronychia Or Swollen Skin Around Nails

By Olena Tselykh/Shutterstock.com

Paronychia is a common condition that causes the skin adjacent to nails to swell and red. It happens because of an infection in the skin around your nails.

Infection can be an outcome of any injury or damage to soft tissue or cuticle of your nails. To the worse, it can fill with pus also.


10 Tips To Suppress Thick Toenails

what causes thick toenails.
image source: Hans / Pixabay

After knowing what causes thick toenails, below are tips to avoid the thickening of nails.

1. Soak your feet in warm water for 10 to 15 minutes makes your toenails soft.

2. It will reduce the chances of thickening of toenails.

3. Remember to dry your feet to avoid any fungal infection due to excess moisture.

4. It is beneficial if you are old. It is also very effective in paronychia.

5. Another thing is to wear shoes in which your feet don’t feel suffocating.

6. Wearing fitting shoes increases sweat and the risk of developing any fungal infection.

7. Invest time in grooming your feet. Take care of your feet and keep them clean.

8. Save your toe from injury or bumping into furniture and other objects.

9. Work carefully and avoid dropping a heavy object on your toenails. It causes cracks in your toenails or, blood can clot underneath your nail plate.

10. Take care of nail cuticles and moisturize your feet and nails properly after cutting or trimming nails.


Home Remedies For Thick Toenails

1. You Can Try Oils To Treat Thick Toenails At Home.

Oils like tea tree oil and oregano oil help in healing.

Benefits of tea tree

Tea tree oil is known for its anti-fungal and anti-bacterial properties. Tea tree effectively fights Trichophyton rubrum fungus.

To know how to use it for fungal infection click, here.

Benefits of oregano oil

Oregano oil contains Thymol which is an anti-bacterial ingredient that helps in relieving fungal infections in the toenail.

oregano oil
By rawf8/Shutterstock.com

Pour a few drops into the affected area and cover it with a cotton ball.

2. Garlic

Applying chopped or crushed garlic to the affected area for 30 minutes. Anti-fungal properties present in garlic can benefit growing fungal infections.

3. Vicks Vaporub

It has a positive effect in treating toenail fungus. Rub Vicks in a small amount to your toe once or twice a day.

4. Vinegar And Water Solution

Mix one part of vinegar into two parts of warm water and use this solution to dip your toe.



What causes thick toenails has many underlying reasons. In old age, toenail fungus can bother the elderly, while many other causes can support why you are experiencing toenail fungus.

Toenails may appear to change color or become yellow, and other signs may accompany it.

The above home remedies can be used to treat the initial stages of thick toenails. If you see fungal infection spreading or becoming more painful, you should consult a doctor. Remember, it should not be left untreated.

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