As you age, it’s normal to notice your nails growing more slowly than when you were younger. This is usually nothing serious and is considered a typical sign of aging.
However, if your toenails 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 supply blood to your legs and feet, restricting the free flow of oxygenated blood to your lower extremities. When your toenails are not growing as they should, you may need to get checked for PAD.
At USA Vascular Centers, our vascular specialists are experts in recognizing and treating the signs and symptoms of PAD. If your toenails have stopped growing, we can conduct a thorough physical exam and perform diagnostic tests to determine if peripheral artery disease is the cause.
What Causes Vascular Disease In Legs and Feet
Plaque accumulation in the arteries, called atherosclerosis, can restrict blood flow and lead to peripheral artery disease (PAD). When blood, oxygen, and nutrients cannot reach the lower extremities, you might start experiencing symptoms of PAD, such as leg pain or numbness, non-healing wounds, and poor hair hail and nail growth.
Several risk factors can contribute to PAD and lead to your toenails not growing. Some are out of your control, while others can be improved with lifestyle changes.
Risk factors that cannot be changed include: being over 60 years of age and a genetic predisposition to vascular disease.
Risk factors you can change include:
- High blood pressure
- High cholesterol
- A sedentary lifestyle
- A diet lacking essential nutrients.
At USA VAscular Centers, our knowledgeable doctors can help manage these risk factors and improve your vascular health. We offer a variety of minimally invasive treatments to help unclog blocked arteries and improve circulation to your legs and feet.
Make an appointment with a vascular specialist as soon as you notice that your toenails have stopped growing. Without proper treatment, peripheral artery disease can worsen over time.
Why Won’t My Toenails Grow?
Poor circulation in your legs and feet can severely inhibit hair and nail growth. As peripheral artery disease progresses, you might notice that your toenails grow very slowly or stop growing entirely.
The nail bed is supplied with nutrients by tiny blood vessels called capillaries, located under the nail bed. (Your toenails get their pinkish color from these capillaries.) The capillaries need to receive adequate oxygenated blood from the arteries in the leg for the nails to grow.
If you have PAD, your toenails may not get enough blood to grow properly. At first, you may notice that they grow more slowly than usual. But over time, their growth may slow to a crawl, or even stop altogether. This could be a sign of critical limb ischemia (CLI), a serious condition that can lead to amputation and even death if not treated promptly.
The vascular doctors at USA Vascular Centers can evaluate and treat the blood flow that makes 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
o determine if peripheral artery disease (PAD) is causing your toenails to stop growing, consider whether you’re experiencing any other symptoms of PAD. Note that some people with PAD may not experience any symptoms, especially in the early or middle stages. If you have any risk factors for PAD, it’s important to get screened at your nearest USA Vascular Centers location. Early diagnosis and treatment of PAD can improve your prognosis.
Some PAD signs and symptoms to watch out for include:
- Pain in the legs. One of the most notable symptoms of PAD is pain in your legs when walking a short distance or climbing stairs. If your legs ache, feel tingly, or cramp up during light activity but stop hurting once you sit down, you may be experiencing intermittent claudication, a telltale sign of PAD. When PAD has progressed to CLI, you might have leg pain even at rest.
- Weakness in the leg. A compromised blood supply will cause weakness in your muscle tissues. Your legs might feel off-balance, making walking difficult.
- Altered sensation. Feet that feel tingly or numb or one leg that’s colder to the touch than the other may indicate poor circulation.
- Skin changes. The skin on your legs might appear shiny and dry, leg hair may stop growing, and toes may appear pale or blue. Advanced stages of PAD can lead to open sores that heal slowly or not at all.
Poor toenail growth can be a sign of moderate to severe PAD. If your toenails have stopped growing, don’t wait for your symptoms to worsen. If you’re experiencing any of the above symptoms, consult a vascular specialist immediately.
Challenges of Noticing Vascular Disease Symptoms in Legs and Feet
PAD does not always present symptoms until the disease has progressed. Even then, many symptoms of vascular disease are commonly mistaken for normal signs of aging or effects of other health conditions.
Slow toenail growth may be ignored as a non-issue if it’s noticed at all. Those with diabetes may already be used to changes in the skin of their legs and feet, making it harder to distinguish the cause of leg hair loss or slow toenail growth. Additionally, peripheral neuropathy—nerve damage that causes painful sensations in the legs and feet—can mask the leg pain caused by PAD.
If you’re over 50 and have risk factors for vascular disease, check your legs and feet regularly and keep track of any changes or potential PAD symptoms you may experience. 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.
Vascular disease in the legs and feet can be improved with safe and effective treatments.
USA Vascular Centers offers three minimally invasive PAD treatments: stent placement, angioplasty, and atherectomy. Each of these non-surgical treatments involves a skilled interventional radiologist guiding a tiny catheter to the site of the arterial blockage.
- Angioplasty: A tiny balloon is inflated to open up the artery and compress the plaque against the artery wall.
- Stent Placement: Following an angioplasty, a mesh stent may be placed in the area to prop the artery open.
- Atherectomy: Accumulated plaque is safely cut away from the arterial walls using a laser or blade.
We perform these minimally invasive treatments in state-of-the-art cath labs inside our outpatient centers, certified by the Accreditation Association for Ambulatory Health Care (AAAHC). In addition to testifying to our high standards of care, this certification allows us to provide services for patients who use Medicare and Medicaid. All treatments are outpatient, so you can go home the same day to begin your quick recovery.
Set Up A Consultation
If you’ve been worried about why your toenails aren’t growing, set up a time to talk about your health concerns at your nearest USA Vascular Centers’ location. Our friendly staff and doctors look 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.
FAQs About Slow Toenail Growth
Is it normal for toenails to not grow?
No-it is not normal for toenails to stop growing completely. While toenail growth can slow down as you age, if you find that your toenails are not growing at all, it may be a sign of an underlying condition. Conditions like peripheral artery disease, fungal infections, or nail injury can all stop toenail growth, so you should consult a doctor to find the underlying cause.
What nail changes are usually signs of poor circulation?
If you have poor circulation in the toenails, you may notice that your nails are more brittle, pale or bluish in color, or thicker. You might also find that toenail growth on one foot is slower than the other. When circulation is severely compromised, the toenails may stop growing completely. If you experience any of these nail changes, contact USA Vascular Centers.
Can poor circulation cause toenails to fall off?
Severe disruption of the blood supply to the toenails can cause them to crumble and break off. Poor circulation also increases the likelihood of fungal infections in the nails, which can cause them to break.
How can I increase blood flow to my feet and toes?
If you notice signs of poor circulation to your feet and toes, the first step should be to consult your doctor to identify and treat the cause. In addition, there are a few measures you can take at home that can help improve blood flow to the feet and toes:
- Avoid smoking. The nicotine in cigarette smoke constricts your blood vessels, damages your blood vessel walls, and makes your blood thicker. This increases your risk of developing conditions like high blood pressure and peripheral artery disease. Avoiding smoking can significantly improve blood flow in the body.
- Control blood pressure. High blood pressure can harden the walls of your arteries and damage the inner lining of the arterial walls, enabling plaque formation and disrupting blood flow. Check your blood pressure regularly and keep it under 120/80 mmHg. If your blood pressure is consistently over this range, consult your doctor.
- Move your legs more. Simple exercises like heel and toe raises and ankle/toe movements strengthen your leg muscles. Even doing simple calf stretches can help improve blood circulation.
- Take walks. Walking is a simple, rewarding activity to help reduce blood pressure and induce muscle contractions in the leg. Both of these factors can improve circulation throughout the body, especially in the legs and feet.
- Avoid compression stockings. Compression socks are commonly recommended to help with vein disease but should be avoided by anyone with PAD. Because they’re designed to fit tightly on the leg, compression socks can restrict blood flow to the extremities even further, exacerbating the effects of a blocked artery. Diabetic socks are loose-fitting to avoid cutting off circulation and may be a better option for those with PAD and diabetes.