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Toenails growing in "layers" that create horizontal lines, why?

Discussion in 'Ask your questions here' started by gilmoregirlz, Aug 22, 2010.

  1. gilmoregirlz

    gilmoregirlz New Member

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    I read the sticky at the top of this forum, so here's the complete history on my issue:
    About 5 years ago I noticed pus around the big toenail on my right foot, but no pain at all. I went to my regular Dr, and she gave me an antibiotic which cleared it up for a couple weeks, but then the pus returned (again with no pain). At that point I went to a foot Dr, and she said it was an ingrown toenail causing the problem. I ended up having surgery on the toe, where the Dr cut away (and I also think killed) the sides of the nail to stop the supposed ingrown nail from causing the pus. Ever since then, my nail has grown in "layers", which create horizontal lines across my nail. I figured this was just an unfortunate result of the surgery (which I'm still not sure I should have gotten since I never had any pain).

    I've just recently noticed that my other big toenail (on my left foot) has developed one of these "layer" things. Since I've never had any problems with this toe, I'm wondering if whatever is causing these "layers" is somehow spreading from my right big toenail.

    I've taken a picture of my left big toe, it shows the issue quite well. From the horizontal line up is the older nail, and underneath that nail you can see the new nail growing beneath. (I just trimmed & filed my nails and I had nail polish on which I took off before taking the picture, that is why the horizontal layer line is colored.) The nail on the toe next to it also is very thick and odd, which kind of shows in the picture, but I'm not as concerned about that one at this point.
    My right big toe generally has 3, 4, or 5 of these layer lines at any given time, I would have also pictured it but I opened a door on top of it 2 weeks ago which took a good portion of the nail off. :eek:


    Is this nail "layer" thing something that might be treatable? I'd really like to have normal toenails without these icky layers if it is fixable. I realize a diagnosis can't be made online and I think I'll be making an appt for this issue in a week or two, but for right now I'm just curious to learn about this problem.
    I'm 23, female, and in the USA.
    Thanks so much for any info...
  2. FootDoc

    FootDoc New Member

    I would recommend your seeing a dermatologist if you've been having this problem for 6 years without any trauma to the nails.
  3. Unregistered

    Unregistered Guest

    Hi, I have the same thing. Initially Drs thought it was a fungal infection, but lab tests were negative and the meds they gave me did nothing. Infact, in that time it has 'spread' to the other foot. So I was wondering if you ever found out what it was? If so, please let me know!

  4. Unregistered

    Unregistered Guest

    Um, I have this right now, mine came from stubbing my toe and breaking the nail way back in the nail bed. It hurt like crazy for about a month till the nail started growing again.
    So try not to stub your toes! I'm a gamer, and it only hurts when I sit on it for a long period of time now. I am thinking about using super glue to glue one nail to the other so it pushes it off faster, any thoughts?
  5. Unregistered

    Unregistered Guest

    My boyfriend has had toenail fungus for 20 years. His toenails were thick, discolored & distorted. He started using Vicks Mentholatum Rub on his dry toenails and all of the nails except his big toenails have cleared up.

    The big toenails will probably take longer to clear since they are so thickened by the fungus.
    Some healthy and flat nail is growing on his big toes and he's real happy about it.

    Try Vicks Mentholatum and it could work for your toenail fungus. We found the info on the internet ourselves and he tried it out. The site did say that Vick's Mentholatum works because it absorbs into the skin/nails where the fungus lives.
  6. Unregistered

    Unregistered Guest


    I though I would let you know of my solution to this problem. I too have the same problem with both big toenails. The right is now growing out, whilst the left isn't growing anymore :)s) but prior to the right one growing out i had constant cracked lines going across.

    A trip to a private chiropodist confirmed that it was trauma to the toenail. For me as a result of my pointed shoes. Ever since I have been wearing the foam toe protectors and now the cracks have stopped and the right toenail is growing out. Bit concerned about the left one. A sign was that the layers were appearing at the same time and were inline suggesting trauma occured at the same point in time, maybe wearing an unsuitable shoe etc.

    The chiropodist did say the fact the yellow discolour was limited to the big toes would suggest that it wasn't fungus as I have had this for over a year and it hasn't spread.
    The initial trip to the dr was for anti fungals which I didn't take due to concerning side effects and wouldn't have made a blind bit of difference. No surprise with the dr there!

    I appreciate that foam protectors is really only suitable for men's type of shoe wear unless you wear trainers or women brogues. Not suitable/unsightly for high heels etc.

    Hope it helps.

  7. Unregistered

    Unregistered Guest

    Hi! My toenails are also doing this. I just did some research, and it looks to be something called Beau's Lines. According to Wiki: "There are several causes of Beau's lines. It is believed that there is a temporary cessation of cell division in the nail matrix. This may be caused by an infection or problem in the nail fold, where the nail begins to form, or it may be caused by an injury to that area. Some other reasons for these lines include trauma, coronary occlusion, hypocalcaemia, and skin disease. They may be a sign of systemic disease, or may also be caused by an illness of the body, as well as other drugs used in chemotherapy or malnutrition.[4]"
    for me, the most liable cause is hypocalcaemia, which is a lack of calcium in the body. This is because I was on certain birth control medications, during which I should have been taking extra vitamin D and calcium, but was not the best at doing because most vitamins and supplements give me digestive issues (another story entirely).
    Hope this helps!
  8. Unregistered

    Unregistered Guest

    My mom and I (I'm 12) have a similar thing. She soaks her feet in super hot water that has a small handful of Epsom salt dissolved in the water. She then dries her feet & files down the top of her nails. It has worked fairly well and is starting to go away.
  9. Unregistered

    Unregistered Guest

    I have the same problem, as does my fiance. SO it seems potentially contagious as I had it first and then he suddenly got it. It does not seem consistent with any photos of fungus infections that I've seen. I've had it for years and it hasn't gotten any worse or better, layers just continually grow out. No trauma to the nail that I know of.

    In response to the poster above about Beau's lines - this is different. Beau's lines appear to be an indention in the nail. This is actual layers, one on top of the other.

    Anyone had any breakthroughs on figuring this out? It is annoying and not very attractive, but I guess it is at least not as unsightly as fungal infections tend to be.
  10. lloyd zerna

    lloyd zerna New Member

    Infection is the only reason I can think of. You should consider replacing our shoes.
  11. Unregistered

    Unregistered Guest

    well, I have exactly the same thing on my left toenail. I have been having recurring fungus issue with that particular nail, however it never got to matrix or to lunula. It just lives closer to the outer egde where I wipe it with vinedgar soaked qtip. My nails are very pail pink, however this affected nail has ridges and was thickening. Its color was deeper pink, almost like and irritation on the skin perhaps due to fungus, candida. Lets rewind:
    end of 2010 I dropped a heavy object on nail matrix. That area turned brown (blood under nail) and completely grew out 4-5 mos ago. So trauma was out.
    in March of this year I was diagnosed with MS after an attack that put me in bed for 3 mos. So since that I have been on 100% gluten free diet and almost no dairy. My sugar consumption has been drastically reduced. When I can I do not mix foods (like proteins and carbs). I am very satisfied with this diet and have dropped 10 lb and 4 inch in my hips. In 3 mos!
    Now about 2 mos ago I noticed that the affected nail lunula starter getting bigger. Then I realized in was not lunula but something growing under it because whaever is growing out was no longer deeper pink. It is more like light pink which made me happy because I thought skin was no longer irritated. Now this new growth covers 3/4 of my nail. Old nail is deep pink and its sides are discolored due to the fungus. But then I noticed a crack growing out of the base of my nail. I actually felt it was a good sign as by body was healing due to gluten free diet and that is astarving fungus and candida. I actually believe it is a healthy nail that is growing under. Time will tell.
    I have not gone to any doctor for it but most doctors will not believe gluten free diet will improve health. I believe mine is working great for me.BTW all ridges smoothed out which is a great sign to me. Thhe nail is still on a thicker side.
    I am waiting for new light pink area to cover all nail so I can probe under it to see if there is a gap and something is under it. I believe at some point I shoul be able to pull the old nail out. I am very hopeful that my nail fungus will be cured without any medication.
  12. Theresa Wood

    Theresa Wood New Member

    Did you ever get an answer about this? I know the original post was a few years ago, but honestly, my toes look EXACTLY like this. I have no idea why. No trauma to my feet, nothing hurts or itches, and it's not "crumbly" like fungus would be. It's just my big toenails (both of them, but no other toes) are growing in these weird horizontal layers, just like in the pic. I wear dark nail polish pretty much all year long to hide it.
  13. Unregistered

    Unregistered Guest

    This seems to be quite an unknown 'infection', I have had this for over a year, it started on my left big toe and I now have it on my right big toe too. I'm pretty sure its not a fungal infection because my mum has that and it is not that. Somebody really needs to look into this in through detail as it seems to be considerably common yet nobody seems to know the answer.
  14. Unregistered

    Unregistered Guest

    I have the same exact problem! I believe it's been going on for at least 2 or 3 years now, it's getting hard to remember. On my left big toe I just let the layers grow in in hopes that it would eventually sort itself out, but that just caused all the layers to build up, so now the toenail is quite short (maybe half or 2/3 the length of a normal toenail) except extremely tall/thick because it has so many layers. It looks yellow because there are so many layers.

    And on my right foot I've been removing the layers as they grow in, so I've consistently had 2 layers for as long as I can remember. Whenever I think the problem is going away and that the nail is growing out properly, another layer always shows up at the base of my nail at the last second.

    I'm glad I'm not the only one who has this. I hope a solution comes up soon.
  15. Unregistered

    Unregistered Guest

    I've had the same thing for several yrs. When I first noticed it, it was several months after a car accident. I went to the dermatalogist and she said it was the result of trauma, not necessarily to the area. She said that my body was using resources to repair areas injured in the accident and since toenail production was not a necessary function, it was put on hold and my nails would resume normal production eventually. This seemed logical as I had several injuries that required survey and I was in pain and usual worries. It seemed logical at the time but since it's been several yrs and I'm good at eating veggies & taking vitamins and it hasn't improved. The things that's most bothersome is since the nail is in layers it cracks at the lines and it's unattractive. I thought it might be a fungus but they're not yellowed.

    Just my story. No doctor really has an idea of what causes it.
  16. Unregistered

    Unregistered Guest

    I believe this is caused by your shoes. It begins with the nail being longer than it should be. That nail touching the tip of the shoe or bendng slightly upward (so slight it is hard to see) that it is touchng the top of the shoe.

    That is enough to be called trauma to the nail. The pressure that is now on the nail is enough for the nail to start lifting itself off of the flat bed of the toe. Some people will have several ridges where you have this line. That is from changing shoes because their toes hurt. The toe starts to feel better so you go back to the original shoes again. Maybe the second shoes are slightly different shape and do not hurt this too long nail. You think the toe is getting better but it is just enjoying the touch of extra room. Then off you go back to those first shoes.

    By this time you have been looking at, trimming and paying attention to that sore toe. When you put it back into the original shoe it feels ok because it was trimmed. Soon as it starts to grow a bit, the trauma starts all over again.

    People who wear a lot of nail polish know that when you remove the polish the nail tends to be yellow from both the chemicals in the remover and from the nail not being able to breathe with all that nail polish on it. So yellow does not necessarily mean fungus. Maybe while dealing with all the trauma the nail was not able to breathe properly.

    Your toes should have no pressure at all on them. They should never touch the top of your shoe or the tip of your shoe. When buying new shoes try them on and wiggle all your toes. You should not be able to see any toes moving. This is a proper fitting shoe.

    Also, going to the foot doctor was the right move. Pus with no pain is not ok. You can be sure, if left unattended, you would be looking at a bigger, painful more invilved surgery.
    Last edited: Jan 10, 2013
  17. Unregistered

    Unregistered Guest

    Treat your feet like a god. They must carry you through your whole life. You could be the healthiest person in the world but without good strong feet your quality of life will be poor.
  18. eisbaum

    eisbaum Guest

    Hi! I'm so happy that I'm not a freak to have a new toenail growing underneath the original toenail. I had the exactly same toenails on my both fourth toes in 2008. At first I was scared to lose my toenails for good but it was not painful at all.

    As the new toenails grow about the half size of my original toenails approximately in two weeks, the new toenails inside replaced the old ones and actually this caused me some irritable experience because my toes were left with the half size toenails. And these new toenails were so thin, just like those of a baby.

    So from that moment, I applied a nail strengthener (a liquid that I bought from a pharmacy, not a nail polisher!) and tried to wear slippers to minimise any pressure on my new baby toenails. After then, it didn't happen again until today. I could assume at least two reasons which gave me this experience. One is my love for narrow-tip shoes and another is possible malnutrition.

    This year 2013, I have this symptom on my both big toenails. So now I can hypothesise better how this double layered toenail works. In my case, it happens symmetrically at the same time for the same toenail on both feet. Isn't that quite funny? It doesn't hurt at all either. I'm a bit more worried this time because now I have this on my big toes instead of small fourth toes.... But I think I can deal with it without going to see a doctor. I think its's again due to malnutrition and due possibly and partially to my new habit to wear rubber boots all the time. I will change my shoes and try to treat it as I did five years ago. Let me come back to the forum later with my result. :)
    Last edited: Feb 11, 2013
  19. Unregistered

    Unregistered Guest

    My 7 year old son has been experiencing this for years. Both big toe nails are constantly cracked and growing in layers. He is very active and plays baseball. I considered that it might be the result of his tight cleats, but this started way before his baseball "career". I don't remember exactly what age. Interestingly, my 7 month old baby boy has a horizontal crack across one of his big toes right now! He doesn't wear shoes, so I'm very skeptical that the shoes are to blame. I'm relieved to see how many more people are experiencing the same exact thing, but I'm really discouraged to find no answer for this. My 7 year old is really having a rough time with all the layers. As they are starting to separate, they are getting snagged and often ripped off before they are ready. This causes him great pain and is breaking my heart. :(
  20. Unregistered

    Unregistered Guest

    Hi there,

    I have the exact same problem. I have had it for the past 8 years. My toenail looks much worse than yours. And I believe it is starting to happen to my other toenails as well.

    I actually saw a dermatologist yesterday and the first thing he told me was that it isn't fungus and there is no treatment. He explained, though, what the problem was. There are 2 reasons why it happens. Trauma and cold feet.

    First of all, my toes are sensitive to the cold. They turn blue very easily. (I have bad circulation I guess.) Because of that whenever any trauma happens to the nail as the nail is growing it is not able to adhere properly to the matrix and nail bed. Therefore, there are those strange layers. And you may also have a slight lifting of the nail at the end.

    The trauma that happened could be something small, so you really have to take care of your feet. And it's important to keep your feet warm and dry, especially during those months of spring and fall when the weather can be deceiving.

    I don't know if these are the same reasons for everyone. But the dermatologist I saw says that he sees this problem all the time, in fact, he has it himself.

    I definitely recommend that you see a dermatologist. I hope this helps!

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