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If you notice any abnormality in your toenails, ask a podiatrist about it.

See a Podiatrist

      Toe Tell Signs of Heart Infection

      Toenails reveal a lot about your overall health and can provide the first sign of a systemic disease.The point Ontario podiatrists want to make as good public health information is to pay attention to your feet and to toenails, especially if you have other cardiac symptoms.  

      Symptoms & Causes

      • Spoon Nails

      Nails that are rounded inward like spoons rather than outward, may indicate a severe iron deficiency. Spoon nails can also occur in people with heart disease. 

      • Clubbed Nails

      The opposite of spoon nails are clubbed nails.  Clubbed nails curve outward and bubble up.  While some people are born with them if they develop later in life they need to be check out promptly as they can indicate an underlying lung disease such as chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) or sometimes heart disease or even inflammatory bowel disease.  Why? The answer is not definitive.  Most suspect that low blood oxygen levels change the shape of the nail as a consequence of the health conditions.

      • Splinter-Like Nails

      Sometimes, you may see thin, long, black, splinter-like lines down the toenail.  They most likely appear if you’ve stubbed your toe or dropped something on the feet and toes.  However, check, if you have not hurt yourself lately, such splinter-like lines could indicate bacterial endocarditis, an infection of the valves and inner lining of the heart.

      • Pitted Nails

      Circulatory problems linked with heart disease or linked to uncontrolled diabetes can cause ridges, grooves or pitted patterns across toenails. Illness, trauma and these disease conditions serve as stressors that temporarily halt matrix cells that produce new nail material. Have them evaluated by your podiatrist.

      • Red Streaked Nails

      Red streaks underneath the toenails could be broken blood vessels known as splinter hemorrhages. These occur when small blood clots damage the tiny capillaries under the nails. They can signal endocarditis, an infection of the heart’s inner lining. People who have an existing heart condition, have received a pacemaker, or who have chronically suppressed immune systems (such as cancer patients receiving chemotherapy, HIV patients, and diabetes patients) are at higher risk of developing endocarditis. The infection can result in heart failure if left untreated. If you notice splinter hemorrhages on your toenails and haven’t experienced any recent trauma to the nail, see your podiatrist or your family doctor.

      • Black Vertical Lined Nails

      A dark, vertical line underneath a toenail could be acral lentiginous melanoma, or hidden melanoma, a form of the skin cancer that appears on obscure body parts. What you are looking for is a black vertical line from the base of your nail to the end of the nail. It should be seen without delay by a podiatrist, family doctor or a dermatologist.


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      OPMA | Ontario Podiatric Medical Association

      P.O. Box 87538 Thornhill Square RPO

      300 John Street Markham, ON L3T7R3

      Tel: 905-475-3098 


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