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Why Are My Toenails Not Growing?

toenails not growing

As you age, it’s normal to notice your nails growing more slowly than they did when you were younger. This is usually nothing serious, and considered normal signs of aging.

However, toenails that grow slowly or seem to stop growing altogether, there may be an underlying cause requiring medical attention, such as peripheral artery disease (PAD). PAD is a vascular condition caused by plaque accumulation in the arteries that lead to your legs and feet. Oxygenated blood can’t flow freely to your lower extremities with PAD. When your toenails are not growing as they should, you may need to get checked for PAD.

At USA Vascular Centers, our professional vascular doctors are experts in recognizing signs of PAD. If your toenails stopped growing, they can conduct a physical exam and perform diagnostic tests to figure out if peripheral artery disease is affecting your toenails.


What Causes Vascular Disease In Legs and Feet

Several factors can contribute to PAD and lead to your toenails not growing. Some factors, like being over 60 or having a genetic predisposition to vascular disease, are out of your control. The lifestyle factors that contribute to PAD and your toenails not growing on the other hand, can be easier to manage once you know the harm they’re doing. Smoking, leading a sedentary lifestyle, eating a diet low in essential nutrients, high blood pressure, and high cholesterol are all risk factors for PAD because they can contribute to plaque accumulation in the arteries. Your caring vascular doctor at USA Vascular Centers can help you learn how to manage these risk factors. 

Arterial plaque is made up of fibrin, cellular waste products, calcium, excess fat, and cholesterol. If you have high cholesterol or blood pressure levels, for example, arteries can easily become inflamed or damaged, which allows plaque to stick to the walls. Over time, plaque accumulates on your arterial walls, preventing blood from traveling freely throughout your body. When blood, oxygen, and nutrients cannot reach the lower extremities, symptoms of vascular disease in your legs and feet will become moderate to severe. This is when you may start asking yourself, “Why is my toenail not growing?” 

It’s important that you make an appointment with a vascular doctor as soon as you notice that your toenails have stopped growing. Without treatment, vascular disease in the legs and feet is a progressive condition that worsens over time. The vascular doctors at USA Vascular Centers come highly recommended. They can perform minimally invasive treatments to help open blocked arteries and get the blood flowing smoothly to your legs and feet again. 

Why Won’t My Toenails Grow?

why is my toenail not growing

For leg hair and toenails to grow, you need proper circulation in your legs and feet. Unfortunately, arterial blockages can cause numerous symptoms including poor toenail growth. The lack of oxygen and nutrients in the nails can cause them to grow very slowly, or stop growing entirely. 

Tiny blood vessels, called capillaries, are located under the nail bed. The capillaries need a proper blood supply for nails to grow. Your toenails get their pinkish color because of these capillaries. Healthy toenails should have a light pink hue, not grey or purple. At first, you may notice a toenail not growing as quickly as it once did. Over time, the growth may slow down so much that you notice your toenails not growing at all. Prompt treatment is necessary to prevent serious complications of PAD, such as the complete blockage of circulation to your feet or legs. This is known as critical limb ischemia and it can lead to amputation and even death. 

The good news is that our vascular doctors at USA Vascular Centers can treat blockages that make your toenails stop growing.

Other Reasons Why Your Toenails Stopped Growing

Although it’s incredibly important to be aware of vascular issues like peripheral artery disease, toenails that don’t seem to grow may be caused by other health issues. Fungal infections, ingrown toenails, an injury to the nail bed, chemotherapy, radiation, spinal injuries, and paralysis can all cause your toenails to stop growing properly. 

If the above conditions have been ruled out, poor circulation may be to blame for your toenails not growing. Additionally, there are a few other symptoms that can help indicate whether or not peripheral artery disease may be the cause.  

Peripheral Artery Disease Feet and Leg Symptoms

toenail not growing

If you’re not sure if peripheral artery disease is causing your toenails to stop growing, you may want to consider if you’ve been experiencing any other symptoms of PAD in addition to your toenails not growing. Before we explore some of the more common symptoms, however, it’s important to note that some people with PAD may not experience any symptoms. This is particularly common for those in the early or middle stages of PAD. If you have any of the risk factors for PAD, it’s a good idea to get a PAD screening at your nearest USA Vascular Centers location. The earlier PAD is diagnosed, the better.

One of the most notable symptoms of PAD is pain in your legs when you’re walking a short distance or climbing a flight of stairs. If your legs ache, feel tingly, or cramp up during light activity but stop hurting once you sit down, you may be dealing with intermittent claudication, a telltale sign of PAD. Other PAD symptoms include leg hair that stops growing, open sores that heal slowly or never heal at all, and persistent coldness in your legs or feet. 

Many of these symptoms are mistaken as signs of aging. If you’ve had any of the above symptoms, consult a vascular specialist as soon as possible. Unfortunately, poor toenail growth can be a sign of moderate to severe PAD. If you’ve noticed your toenails have stopped growing, don’t wait for your symptoms to worsen. See a vascular doctor as soon as possible to address the plaque in your peripheral arteries.

Challenges of Noticing Vascular Disease Symptoms in Legs and Feet

If you’re like many people, you’re probably not in the habit of regularly checking how well your toenails are growing. You may only realize that something is amiss when you realize it’s been many months since you last cut your toenails. Additionally, if you have diabetes, you may already be used to skin changes on your legs and feet. This can make it even more difficult to assess importance to changes like decreased leg hair or toenail growth.

Neuropathy, a condition affecting the nerves, can make it also more challenging to notice leg pain caused by PAD. If you’re over the age of 50 and have risk factors for vascular disease in your legs and feet, it’s a good idea to study your legs and feet regularly and keep track of any changes or potential PAD symptoms you may be experiencing. We recommend writing down the dates you notice any changes, such as your toenails not growing, so you can share this information with your vascular doctor at your initial appointment.

Treating Blocked Arteries in Feet and Legs Caused by PAD

If your toenails have stopped growing, it may be alarming to know that PAD causes toenails not to grow. Fortunately, vascular disease in the legs and feet can be effectively treated with safe and effective treatments.

We offer three minimally invasive PAD treatments at USA Vascular Centers: stent placement, angioplasty, and atherectomy. In these non-surgical treatments, our skilled vascular doctors or interventional radiologists insert a catheter into the vascular system. The entry point is so small that stitches aren’t needed. Depending on the type of the procedure, the physician will either inflate a balloon at the site of each blockage to compress the plaque against the artery wall (angioplasty), do the balloon procedure, and add a mesh stent to prop the artery open (stent placement), or remove the plaque using a laser or blade (atherectomy).

These procedures are done in the state-of-the-art cath labs inside our outpatient centers, which are certified by the Accreditation Association for Ambulatory Health Care (AAAHC). This certification is a testament to our high standards of care, and it allows us to provide services for patients who use Medicare and Medicaid. All treatments are done on an outpatient basis, so you can go home the same day and recover in the comfort of your own bed. If you’re visiting our center from out of town, we provide comfortable lodging options for you.

Schedule a Consultation

If you’ve been worried about why your toenails stopped growing, come see us at your nearest USA Vascular Centers location. Our friendly team of staff and doctors looks forward to helping resolve any vascular issues causing discomfort. Schedule an appointment online today or give us a call at 888.773.2193. We also offer an online quiz to help you understand whether you might be at risk for PAD.


Sources Cited: 

  1. “Aging Changes in Nails: MedlinePlus Medical Encyclopedia Image.” MedlinePlus. U.S. National Library of Medicine, July 19, 2020. https://medlineplus.gov/ency/imagepages/8671.htm. 

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