Toenails turn brown due to infection by a specific class of fungus referred to as dermatophyte. Fungus enters the toenail through small cracks in the nail bed or broken skin. The fungus causes the toenail to become ragged and deteriorated. The toenail then turns brown due to dried blood and debris buildup underneath the unhealthy nail.
According to The Permanente Medical Group, toenail fungal infections are common, but more prevalent in individuals with specific risk factors such as diabetes, weakened immune systems and histories of toenail fungus. Additional risk factors include psoriasis and the use of contaminated toenail clippers. The progression of toenail fungus can be slowed down with over-the-counter anti-fungal medications. If the toenail is causing pain, oral medications and toenail removal are often recommended.
Healthcare professionals at Cigna recommend that individuals with health problems such as diabetes or a weakened immune system discuss their treatment options with a healthcare professional prior to starting treatment, due to the fact that they are at a higher risk for additional health issues. Left untreated, toenail fungus can spread to other areas of the skin and cause irreversible damage to the toenail. Oral anti-fungal medications work well to treat toenail fungus, but they are also known to cause side effects. It is important for anyone taking prescription anti-fungal medication to consult with a physician on a regular basis for the duration of the treatment.