what causes thick toenails. what causes thick toenails.

What Causes Thick Toenails: 7 Common Reasons

Well-groomed nails are important not to only add to your beauty, but also to give you a sense of being put-together and well-maintained. But what causes thick toenails is the issue.

On the health side, your nails also reflect many underlying medical conditions. Often people complain about thick overgrown toenails that hurt them and cause discomfort in walking.

There are other possible reasons for thick toenails. One of them is onychauxis, a condition where fingernails or toenails grow thick and painful at times.

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

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

Structure of Your Nails

To know what causes thick toenails, one must be aware of nail structure or anatomy. Nail is a unit that is composed 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 colour to nails. It is what we all call nails “the hard part.”
  3. Nail bed: The pinkish-coloured 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 start 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 the thickness, colour, growth, and shape of their 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 colour 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 a lot of the population suffers in general.

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 causes slow growth of the nail plate. It makes the toenail change colour and become yellow, accompanied by increased thickness and, toenails become more curved. Due to thickened nails and extra curves 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 the soft tissue or cuticle of your nails. To the worse, it can fill with pus also.

what causes thick toenails.
image source: Hans / Pixabay

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.

Frequently Asked Questions

1. What are thick toenails called?

Onychauxis is a medical name for a nail overgrowth or thickening that can become discoloured and turn white, yellow, or red.

2. Will thick toenails go away?

Since toenails grow slowly, it requires a long time to heal thick or broken ones. Even with continuing therapy, some toenail disorders might take as long as a year to get better.

3. Can thick toenails be corrected?

In some circumstances, the thick toenail may be removed by surgery to reduce pressure and relieve the infected tissue beneath.


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 colour 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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