Why Do We Have Toenails? Your Questions, Answered | Triad Foot & Ankle Center

Why Do We Have Toenails? Your Questions, Answered

Toenails, like most of our bodily organs, serve a distinct purpose.

The primary purpose of toenails is protection. Have you ever stubbed your big toe on the side of a sturdy piece of furniture in your home? Maybe you’ve been standing in line when the person in front of you accidentally steps backward onto your foot while wearing a pair of combat boots. No matter the circumstance, at one point or another in your life, you’ve most likely suffered from a toe injury.

Toenails serve as little shields that protect the skin and bones that your toes are comprised of so that in the event of an injury, you’re not left with broken skin or worse – a broken bone.

In addition to protection, nails in general help with small tasks like peeling a sticker off a piece of fruit, or gripping cup. Sure, we don’t perform any of those tasks with our feet as humans, but certain animals may use their toenails to grip branches or hunt prey.

What are toenails made of?

Toenails are made of keratin—an essential protein found in nails, skin and hair. Although how fast your nails in general grow depends on how much keratin is produced in your body, toenails grow significantly slower than fingernails, according to the experts at Triad Foot and Ankle Center.

Potential threats to your toenails

Besides the obvious stubbing, your toe protectors may fall victim to other ailments, prompting you to reach out to a podiatrist as soon as possible. The first potential issue is the growth of fungus. Toenail fungus is caused by the buildup of bacteria underneath the nail, and can be both odorous and may even be painful.

Ingrown toenails are also a threat to your feet, which is why how you cut your nails is extremely important. According to the doctors at Triad Foot and Ankle Center, you should cut them straight across the top and file the corners to be slightly round. This shape in particular allows proper nail growth – upward instead of inward.

If you suspect you’ve developed an ingrown toenail, contact your podiatrist immediately for treatment. Ingrown nails are both unsightly and painful, and if left untreated, can lead to a drastic decline in foot health.

For more information on how the experts at Triad Foot and Ankle Center can help your feet live their best lives, request to make an appointment at one of our Triad-based offices.

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