After proudly completing her first marathon, Jamie looked forward to soaking her tired feet in Epsom salts. But as she removed her shoes, then socks, she was surprised to find her big toenail was discolored with dark spots. She didn’t recall dropping anything on her foot, and certainly running 26.2 miles would cause some bruising. During her soak, she grabbed her smartphone to google “bruised toenail,” and to her surprise, the search came back with “toenail fungus.” Confused and unable to tell the two apart, she set up an appointment to get to the bottom of this mystery.
Bruising vs. Fungus
As Jamie learned, bruising of the toenail can resemble toenail fungus. If you have traumatized the toenail in any way, whether it means you dropped something on your toe, someone stepped on your foot, or you have logged 26 miles in one day on your feet, you can expect that your toenail might be bruised.
If the spot is black and shiny, it is likely a bruise and less likely toenail fungus, especially if you recall when or why that bruising might have occurred (example, if you stubbed your toe). If the discoloration is yellow, gray, or greenish in tint, it is more likely a toenail fungus infection.
Color is Key
Discoloration of the toenail is one of the telltale signs of toenail fungus. Of course, toenails can become discolored because there is a bruise under the toenail. One of the keys to distinguish a fungal infection from other causes of discoloration is whether the toenail has become separated from the underlying toenail bed. In most cases, this separation leads to the opaque appearance of the toenail in the area of dark discoloration, which means that there is a fungus among us. If there is no opacity and no apparent separation of toenail from the skin underneath, you can probably rule out fungus and assume it is a bruise.
If you need help getting to the bottom of a medical mystery with regard to your skin, look no further than South Florida’s premier pediatric dermatology practice, the Children’s Skin Center. With offices located in Miami (Nicklaus Children’s Hospital main campus), Coral Gables, Doral, Miami Lakes, Miramar, Kendall, and Palm Beach Gardens, getting family-friendly dermatology care with a board-certified dermatologist has never been easier or more convenient.