As you age, it’s normal to notice your hair or nails not growing as quickly as they used to. When you were in your 20s or 30s, you might have had thick, shiny locks as well as more leg and arm hair. Now that you are approaching your 50s and 60s, it’s natural to notice your hair changing color or getting thinner. This is because follicles stop producing new hairs as frequently as they used to. Also, a decreased in hormones can negatively influence your hair and toenail growth.

But what does it mean when your toenails stop growing? You may be surprised to learn that poor leg hair and toenail growth can actually be an underlying sign of a vascular condition known as peripheral artery disease (PAD).

What Causes Vascular Disease In Legs and Feet

Diagram of plaque in artery against blue background

Unfortunately, peripheral artery disease is a common condition that affects nearly eight million people in the U.S. Without treatment, vascular disease in legs and feet is considered a progressive condition that gets worse over time.

PAD is caused by plaque buildup within the arteries that either causes a partial or full blockage that narrows the blood vessels. Arterial plaque is made up of fibrin, cellular waste products, calcium, excess fat, and cholesterol. If you have high cholesterol or blood pressure levels, 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 aren’t able to reach the lower extremities, symptoms of vascular disease in your legs and feet will become moderate to severe.

Why Won’t My Toenails Grow?

Mans feet by pool deck outside

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 to 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. As the plaque buildup increases, toenails not growing properly is common. If you have noticed this change, it’s crucial to see a vascular specialist immediately to discuss your treatment options for toenails not growing.

Other Reasons Why Your Toenails Stopped Growing

Doctor examining patients toes and nails with magnifying glass

If you’ve noticed that you haven’t had to clip or trim your toenails in a few months, this could be an indication that their growth has slowed or stopped completely. This may be your body’s way of trying to alert you that there is an underlying condition that is leading to toenails not 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 such as:

  • Fungal infections
  • Ingrown toenails
  • Cancer treatments like radiation or chemotherapy
  • Injury to the nail bed
  • Spinal injuries or paralysis

If you’ve ruled out the above conditions, poor circulation may be to blame. Thankfully, 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

Doctor examining patient who has PAD

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 such as:

  • Leg pain/cramping in your buttocks, thighs, calves, or feet
  • Pain that stop when you elevate your legs or are at rest
  • Difficulty walking or climbing stairs
  • Restlessness that disturbs sleep
  • Cooler leg compared to the other
  • Tingling, numb feeling in your legs or feet
  • Pale or bluish skin color on your legs or feet
  • Erectile dysfunction
  • Shiny, dry skin on your legs
  • Slow or non-healing wounds on your legs
  • Fatigue or heaviness felt in your legs
  • Poor leg hair growth

It’s important to note that some people with PAD may not experience any symptoms. Additionally, many of these symptoms are mistaken as signs of aging and ignored. If you’ve had any of the above symptoms, consult a vascular specialist as soon as possible. Unfortunately, poor leg hair and toenail growth is a sign of moderate to severe PAD; therefore, it’s not considered an early sign. If you’ve noticed your toenails have stopped growing, don’t wait for your symptoms to worsen.

Challenges of Self-Diagnosing Vascular Disease In Legs and Feet

Person experiencing leg pain in calf muscle

For many people, noticing toe nail changes may seem arbitrary. It’s common for people to not notice when their leg hair or toenails aren’t growing properly; however, this can be a good sign of poor circulation. 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 notice decreased leg hair or toenail growth.

Neuropathy, a condition that affects the nerves, can also make it more challenging to diagnose leg pain, another common symptom of PAD. If you’re over the age of 50 and have risk factors for vascular disease in legs and feet, you should be tracking any symptoms you may be experiencing.

Treating Blocked Arteries In Feet and Legs Caused by PAD

Doctor viewing angiogram of artery on live xray tool

Peripheral vascular disease symptoms in feet and legs should never be ignored. If you are at an increased risk for PAD, track when your toenails stopped growing and other symptoms you may be experiencing. This will help you accurately describe to a vascular specialist so they can determine what might be the cause of toenails not growing properly. Arteries in feet and legs becoming blocked is the number one reason for slowed toenail growth.

Thankfully, there are safe and effective solutions that can treat vascular disease in your legs and feet. At USA Vascular Centers, we use a combination of lifestyle changes, medications, and non-surgical treatment to open up narrowed arteries. At our outpatient facilities, our vascular specialists can treat peripheral vascular disease symptoms in the feet and legs without surgery. Our physicians can help determine which minimally invasive treatment is right for you: atherectomy or stent angioplasty. Both of these treatments can unblock arteries in feet and legs caused by peripheral artery disease. Don’t wait for your symptoms to become severe. Give our friendly team members a call at 888-773-2193 or schedule conveniently online.

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