if skiing is one of your favorite winter pastimes, make sure you don’t suffer from “skiers’ toe”. This is just another way to say subungual hematoma, or black toenail. When your toe hits the inside of your ski boot too frequently, it may cause blood to pool underneath the nail, leading to a darker color than normal. However, this isn’t the only reason for black toenails. It’s a good idea to get checked out to make sure it’s not something serious.

Besides hitting it against the inside of your shoe, your black toenail could be the result of sustaining a direct trauma to your toe (such as dropping something heavy on it). If trauma is the culprit, you will most likely know it and be in intense pain. The nail will become discolored, eventually fall off, and a new one will grow in its place.

However, there are two other sneakier reasons why your nails might be black. A fungal infection can discolor your nails, and it can be difficult to get rid of without surgically removing the nail. Even scarier, malignant melanoma can darken your nails.

The first step is noticing that your nails are black and deciding to do something about it. Coming to our office for an evaluation and treatment is the next step and should be done as quickly as possible. Once we figure out the underlying cause, we can create a treatment plan.

For many cases we can simply monitor your progression as the nail falls off and a new one grows back. We will show you how to protect your toe from infection and further trauma during this process. If a fungal infection is to blame, we may try conservative methods first, such as laser therapy. Sometimes surgery is necessary. In the very rare case that it’s melanoma, we will be able to get you the help you need for that as well.

If you have questions about your black toenail, call Dr. Mitchell Wachtel at (978) 794-8406 to schedule an appointment in one of our three Massachusetts offices: Lowell, Haverhill, or North Andover.