Got Blue Toenails? Causes, Treatments And When To See The Doctor

Last Updated on February 10, 2021
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written by nail expert Jess Rowley

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Blue Toenails? Here Are The Causes, Treatment, And Prevention: 

Have you just removed your last set or nail polish, ready for your next pedicure, and notice one of your toenails has gone blue?

Although in most cases this nail discoloration may just indicate a bruise, caused by stubbing it, dropping something heavy on it– causing the vessels can bleed underneath the nail.

However, in some cases, it could indicate an underlying condition that may need to be treated by your doctor or a podiatrist.

But there’s no need to worry:

A blue discolorment can mean a lot of reasons and be caused by a wide range of reasons. Majority of the time the treatment is fairly simple too.

I have good news though, I have broken down all the confusing features of all the different types and what kind of treatment you may need– even when it’s time to take a visit to the doctor.

But let’s get to the full rundown!

pedicure

So What Causes Blue Or Black Toenails?

There is actually a lot of reasons for our toes to turn blue, from poor circulation as a result of the cold to some more serious causes. If experience shortness of breath, numbness in the area, or dizziness that’s when I’d go and see a professional.

But what does it mean when your toenails turn blue?

Most of the time it is nothing to worry about but here are the top causes and indications:

– A subungual hematoma

– Result of cold weather

– Cyanosis

– Wilson’s disease

– Argyria

– Raynaud’s phenomenon

– Drugs

– Blue mole

In most cases, if you’ve dropped something heavy on your foot or badly stubbed your toe that will most likely be the cause of a blue toe but it could also be caused by one of these.

Let’s break them down!

Subungual hematoma:

Subungal hematoma is also referred to as the bruising under the nail, causing it to have a blue-purple kind of color, you may even notice black toenails too. This is most commonly caused by dropping something heavy on your toe or stubbing your toe.

It causes the small blood vessels to burst underneath, causing the nail to bleed– hence turning blue.

Now these bruises may take a while to heal and the blue discoloration may take a while to go away, some can even take up to 9 months to grow out!

Here are some treatments to help:

– You can get over-the-counter pain medication to help ease the pain.

– Keeping your leg well elevated also helps.

– Using ice is also a good way to reduce swelling and help numb the pain.

– If it causing too much discomfort you can go to the doctor to relieve the pressure by making a small hole in the nail.

Is there a way I can prevent my toe from bruising? 

Although you can’t help and prevent you accidentally stubbing your toe or dropping something from dropping on it, there are other ways you can prevent bruising.

Firstly make sure you are wearing the appropriate footwear that fits correctly and feels comfortable, maybe even invest in some extra toe protection to help too.

Make sure your shoelaces aren’t too tight and your foot is well ventilated while doing exercise– poor circulation can cause these bruises and blue discoloration on your toenails.

Monitoring your blood pressure is also a good habit to get into, if you smoke or have high blood pressure I would recommend trying to get it down, making sure your leg is elevated too.

Also, make sure you exercise regularly and don’t remain seated for too long, if it continues I would recommend going to seek medical advice.

Cold weather: 

This is also very common for blue toenail discoloration, when the temperature gets cold, blood vessels constrict. So areas like the toes and fingers may not get as much blood or oxygen flow.

Rather than toenails turning blue, it is really the skin turning blue instead. To prevent this I would recommend investing in warm, thermal socks in the winter to prevent your blood vessels from constricting.

It is a very simple fix and nothing to worry about!

Cyanosis: 

We have already briefly spoken about this, it means poot circulation or little amounts of oxygen in the blood. This may make the appearance of your nails look blue, including the skin under your nails.

This can also have an effect on lips, fingers, and feet in general.

I would recommend seeking medical advice with this issue, they may recommend some medications to relax your blood vessels and improve blood flow.

Wilson’s disease:

Wilson’s disease, also known as hepatolenticular degeneration, is when the lunula (the white rounded area) of the nail turns blue.

It can be treated fairly easily, with medication from the doctor. The drugs will help to remove the copper from the issue to help with the discoloration.

toes

Drugs to help with breast cancer:

Some drugs that are used to help with some breast cancer may actually cause changes in the color of your nails during treatment.

It may cause your fingernails and toenails to look blue, black-brown, and even green.

These medications include daunorubicin, docetaxel, doxorubicin, mitoxantrone, and ixabepilone.

Argyria:

Now, this can be caused after high exposure to silver, for example being a silver miner, photographic processor, or electroplating.

Even some silver dietary supplements, medication, or even dental fillings can make this occur. It is very rare and unlikely to be the cause unless you have prolonged exposure to silver.

It causes the skin to have a blue/grey stain on the toenails and skin, making your toenails appear blue.

The best way to help this is to avoid exposure in the future, if possible.

Raynaud’s phenomenon:

Raynauds phenomenon is when you have restricted or interrupted blood flow to the fingers, toes, ears, and even nose. The blood vessels are restricted which causes them to appear white and then blue.

This can be a result of the cold weather or even stress. It could also cause numbness in your toes or fingers– leading to this color change.

I would seek medical advice for this one as it can be treated with medication to widen the blood vessels and promote blood flow to these areas.

Blue moles:

If you notice a blue spot underneath your nail and the whole nail isn’t blue then this could be a blue mole, also known as a blue nervus.

If you notice this on your nail then I would go to the doctor straight away to have it surgically removed.

But what about blue toe syndrome?

This is also known as trash foot, this is caused by digital ischemia (your toes not getting enough blood and oxygen)

By your toes not getting enough blood it causes them to change color and make the toenails appear blue. This sometimes only happens to one foot but can happen to both.

Just elevating your foot or putting pressure on your toes can cause it to return to its normal color.

You may also have some other symptoms like foot pain, muscle pain in the legs, ulcers, or blisters on the feet, and even bruising.

There are actually some treatments to help this though:

Stenting: This is when a surgeon enters a mesh tube into the blood vessel to hold it open and help with blood flow.

Bypass surgery: This is another treatment, this is when a surgeon takes a healthy blood vessel and creates a bypass around the blockage.

How can I prevent this in the future?

The best way to prevent this is to keep your vascular system as healthy as possible.

For example: keeping active, quitting smoking, maintaining a healthy weight, eating a balanced diet, and cutting down on alcohol intake.

Just keeping active and healthy will help massively! 

Summary:

When it comes to toenail discoloration there are actually a lot more causes than you may think. In most cases, it could be as simple as being caused by the cold weather but if it’s a cause for concern then I’d go and see a professional.

Our toenails contain keratin, a protein to make up nails and even the slightest bump or knock can cause your pretty tootsies to turn blue– it’s not uncommon.

But take a look at the causes I have listed today and if you think that that may be the reason for your discoloration try out the treatment!

Some are fairly quick fixes, so you can have your pretty manicure once again!

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