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Is my black toenail caused by fungus?

The fact that you’ve landed on this page of my web site would suggest that you, or someone you know, has got a black or blackening toenail. Don’t worry.  I am here to help you with all the information you need. First off, it might not be fungus – but let’s take a look at things in more detail.

There are a few things that might cause your toenail to become black (or blue, purple, brown – generally dark colors).

Let’s go through the list first, then dive into more detail;

An injury – Bruising or a collection of blood under the toenail can cause the nail to appear dark with black, blue and purple shades of color. Often called ‘Runner’s toe’ it’s caused by an injury or trauma to the toe.

Cancer – A scary thought but it is a very rare condition. Cancer occurring in the nail bed and the surrounding area will show up as dark, tan and or black spots underneath your toenails or fingernails.

Dark Skin – If you have dark skin (African American or black people) it is not uncommon to have tan or dark lines running down your fingernails or toenails. Thought the possibility for cancer should not be ignored.

Fungus – A fungal nail infection can cause discoloration of fingernails and toenails. Toenail fungus can cause the nail to appear dark even black. Often though there will be other shades of yellow and green associated with fungus.

Symptoms of nail injury causing black nails

  • Black, blue, red and or purple shade of toenail
  • Bleeding
  • Pain
  • Loose nail
  • Lose of the entire nail

Sometimes a nail injury can be a memorable event. Something like jamming your finger in a car door accidentally. It hurts a lot so you can remember it. Or you drop something heavy on your toe accidentally. This can cause a blood blister of sorts to form under the nail. This will turn the nail bed a dark shade of black, red and purple. It will likely be painful and you might eventually lose the entire toenail or fingernail.

Though sometimes a black toenail can be caused by an injury over a period of time, not in a single traumatic event. Running or playing sport can put pressure on toes and toenails. Especially with shoes that might be a bit too tight or too loose, that then cause your toes to rub. Eventually the rubbing and pressure can lead to bleeding under the nail and in the nail bed.

Injured nails are more susceptible to infection. Make sure you keep them clean and dry. At the first sign of puss or fungal infection, you should treat it with an anti-bacterial or anti-fungal treatment. If it doesn’t improve, see your local doctor.

Symptoms of cancer causing black nails

Note: Cancer under the nails can only be correctly diagnosed by a biopsy. If you have any concerns, please see your doctor.

  • Dark black or tan vertical (up and down) stripe
  • Sometimes blurred borders
  • Changes in the stripe over time
  • Sometimes black or tan spots under the nail or in the nail itself
  • A light line, getting thicker, wider and darker

The famous reggae musician Bob Marley died of nail cancer. The cancer begins in the nail bed and can be misdiagnosed as other nail problems. The presence of cancer in the nail matrix (nail growth area) can discolor new nail growth. Think of a piece of paper being dragged across a black paintbrush. As the nail (paper) grows, the cancer (paint brush) colors a black line. As the cancer grows, the line can thicken.

If you have a family history of skin cancer or you have any of the symptoms mentioned, go see your doctor immediately. Get a biopsy done on the black nail to be safe and sure.

Symptoms of fungus causing black nails

  • Discolored toenails – black, yellow, white and greens shades of color
  • Brittle nail
  • Thickening nail
  • Sometimes can be itchy
  • Bad smell
  • Scaly skin next to the toenails
  • No pain, usually

The most likely disease that occurs in toenails is a fungus infection. As the fungus attacks the nail and nail bed, the toenail discolors to darker shades. In response, the toenail begins to thicken and become brittle. Eventually the nail will be lost entirely.

Injuries to toenails can increase the risk of getting a fungal infection. In some what of a vicious circle, toenails that are weakened by fungus and are easier to injure and damage.

What to do if you have a black nail from injury?

In most cases toenail and fingernail injuries will heal by themselves. Keep the injured nail clean and dry to prevent any infections.

However, if the nail is painful with a lot of pressure under the nail from bleeding, medical treatment might be required. Book an appointment with your doctor. Your doctor might recommend removal of the nail or a small hole might be made in the nail to reduce pressure and blood build up.

What to do if you have black nail from cancer?

Go see your local doctor as soon as humanly possible. Stop reading and go book an appointment now. It is important to catch and treat nail cancer (or any cancer for that matter) as quickly as possible. Amputations of the fingertip and / or chemotherapy are common treatments. Better to lose a fingertip than your life. For more information, you can check out http://nailcancerawareness.com/

What do if you have black nails from fungus?

If you have a fungal nail infection you should start treatment right away. The longer you wait, the longer the fungus has to take root and will go deeper. Once fungus gets to the nail bed it is very difficult to get rid of.

There are many types of treatments available – oral medications, laser treatments and topical ointments or creams. Each has their upsides and down sides though generally it’s easiest and cheapest to start with a topical treatment. You can read more about fungus and treatments on the front page of my blog.

Combine treatment with good foot and toe hygiene. Wash your toes well and make sure you dry them properly. A good treatment with a product like ClearNail Pro+ combined with good hygiene will have your nails looking like new. Stick with the treatment and you’ll see good results and stop the fungus in it’s tracks. Get rid of nail fungus now – click here to learn more about ClearNail Pro+ and buy online.

51 Comments

  1. Alex Calderon
    July 18, 2015 at 4:58 am Reply

    My toenail became black/purple and it eventually fell off. Now, the nail has regrown but the skin in front of the nail has became black/purple. Any idea what it could be?

    • An anonymous toenail fungus survivor
      September 11, 2015 at 4:18 am Reply

      That sounds like there could possibly be blood and/or bruising under the skin, especially if your toenail became black/purple after it had some kind of injury. However, it is always best to speak to your doctor and get them to take a look at any unusual spots or coloration on your skin.

  2. Sports toe nail injury
    October 5, 2015 at 8:17 am Reply

    About 2 months ago I hurt my big toe nail playing sports (It hooked to the inside of my trainers and lifted up) Soon it started to darken and became almost purple. I covered it with nail polish for a while until yesterday I noticed that it has become yellow (Like when a bruise becomes an off shade of yellow) and has lifted half way, i had to clean most of what was inside as it was a bit dirty and had an odor. There is a bit left still on the skin so i don’t want to take it off and the bottom of my toe feels very soft towards the skin. It doesn’t hurt but its pretty uncomfortable. Is this normal and okay? Will it eventually come off?

    • An anonymous toenail fungus survivor
      October 18, 2015 at 11:41 pm Reply

      Hi there, I’d recommend visiting a doctor and getting them to investigate your nail injury further.

    • Cara
      December 7, 2015 at 1:03 pm Reply

      The exact same thing happened to me in the left hand in the middle finger. It was purple, then, green and then yellow and then had an odour.
      I didn’t do anything, just cut the nail and keep the nail bed clean. It will eventually grow and normalise.

  3. Laura
    October 19, 2015 at 6:24 pm Reply

    Hi,
    I noticed a few weeks ago that I had some black on my right big toenail but thought nothing of it as I had worn tights recently that were rubbing against my toes at the front of my shoe. I have just taken my nail polish off and realised it is much worse than originally thought and my right toenail is around 75% black. I also realised that on my left big toe nail there is a small rectangular shape of black as well. Neither of my big toes are painful in anyway and there is no yellow, purple etc colour surrounding my toe. Please can you help me as I’m slightly worried as to what this may be. Thanks.

    • An anonymous toenail fungus survivor
      October 19, 2015 at 11:29 pm Reply

      Hi Laura,
      It may be caused by blood under the nail as a result of an injury from wearing tight shoes, however if you are concerned as to what it may be, I would suggest booking an appointment with your family doctor.

  4. S Doshi
    October 26, 2015 at 8:50 am Reply

    Hi My toe nails have been black for almost five months and have some sort of thickening under the toe nail. Can you please advice me what to do. It looks like it is getting worse. Thank you.

    • An anonymous toenail fungus survivor
      December 11, 2015 at 8:50 am Reply

      Please go see your doctor.

  5. Donna
    November 10, 2015 at 3:02 pm Reply

    I had my toe nail removed about 3 years ago due to ingrown nail. It came back fine. My son in law took me to get my toenails done at a salon here in town in April of last year. My nail has been black for 6 months if not longer and I have a hard time wearing shoes that touch it. Could it be fungus again? Please help

  6. Alisha
    December 19, 2015 at 4:37 am Reply

    I have a little gray/black spot Under my toenail, no injury has occurred. I’m very concerned. What do you suggest it is?

    • An anonymous toenail fungus survivor
      January 4, 2016 at 9:34 am Reply

      It’s very hard to diagnose something like this using a short description in words. If you’re concerned, you should see your doctor.

  7. Jernice
    December 28, 2015 at 3:28 am Reply

    my toe nails are black but not completely black it is cause due to my shoe they are to tight,and i never went to see doctor,will it recover by its own? or it is a must to see doctor?

    • An anonymous toenail fungus survivor
      January 4, 2016 at 9:33 am Reply

      It may grow out on its own if its just a case of bleeding under the nail caused by tight shoes, however if you are concerned, you should see a doctor.

  8. Sophia
    December 29, 2015 at 10:01 am Reply

    My toenail has been blackened And thick for over 2 years. I didn’t think anything was wrong at first, but its gotten a lot worse now. It is very itchy all the time and it peels. How do I get rid of this? Should I see a doctor or can I do this on my own?

    • An anonymous toenail fungus survivor
      January 4, 2016 at 9:33 am Reply

      You could try using a natural treatment like ClearNail Pro+ and see if it clears it up – otherwise, you should speak to your doctor.

  9. concerened girl
    February 20, 2016 at 10:18 pm Reply

    at first my second toe had only a black vertical line under the nail. I eventually cut the nail and the line was visible. so I tried to dig out the line because I figured it was a splinter. I couldn’t get it and gave up.
    since then the nail has thickened and is now turning black from within. the nail is also currently painful when pressure is applied and since i cut the nail today. also my pinkie toe has the visible black thing in my nail now and is turning black.

    • An anonymous toenail fungus survivor
      May 11, 2016 at 3:48 am Reply

      Hi Concerned Girl,
      Please go see a doctor and have them diagnose what is wrong.
      Thanks!

    • another concerned girl.
      June 5, 2016 at 6:47 am Reply

      Did you ever go to the doctor for this?!? If so what is it? I have the same exact thing it comes and goes.

    • charlee
      September 16, 2016 at 12:04 am Reply

      same with me i just took off my nail polish and discovered my big right toe is half way black and green…. now iv’e had black lines running across the toe for a long while and always just thought it was from me stubbing my toe ALL THE TIME. and when pressure is applied to it, it feels very sore and i noticed it seems looser than the other toes. And my left pinkie toe is black by 75 percent

  10. Emily
    March 23, 2016 at 2:06 am Reply

    I have been in sports and my toenail darkening hasn’t been a problem until the past year or so, I didn’t think anything of it hoping it would go away. As for my finger nails I noticed light red bands forming and they started to darken and I don’t know what it is. I am really scared it is cancer. Please help

    • An anonymous toenail fungus survivor
      May 11, 2016 at 3:43 am Reply

      Hey Emily, I’d strongly advise contacting your doctor and having him look at your nails.

  11. greg
    March 24, 2016 at 11:38 pm Reply

    Hi,
    I’ve had a blackened little toenail for about 8 months now. Reading the above comments I now believe it may very well be due to rubbing from shoes. Could anyone give me a rough idea at how long I could be looking at for it to clear up and what treatments would work best? My partner and I don’t believe it to be a fungal nail infection.

    • An anonymous toenail fungus survivor
      May 11, 2016 at 3:42 am Reply

      If it’s just caused by rubbing against tight shoes, then it should clear up as the nail grows out. Toenails tend to grow slowly, and it may take 12-18 months for it to fully grow out.

  12. Janixqua Lewis
    March 25, 2016 at 3:30 am Reply

    Bob Marley did not die of nail cancer lol where do you get your info from???? He was shot on stage!!!!!

    • An anonymous toenail fungus survivor
      May 11, 2016 at 3:40 am Reply

      Hey Janixqua,
      I read about Bob Marley’s death due to nail cancer from Wikipedia.
      Hope that clears up the confusion.

    • Anon
      May 22, 2016 at 10:45 pm Reply

      He did die of cancer that started in his toe and then developed throughout his body

    • Bob Marley died of cancer which started in his big toe..he refused to have it ampbody.
      July 20, 2016 at 7:10 am Reply

      Bob Marley died of cancer which started in his big toe..he refused to have it amputated due to religeous beliefs, eventually the cancer spread through his body.

    • Palogyni
      November 5, 2016 at 5:45 pm Reply

      Bob Marley died of Cancer!! not shot on stage!!!where DO YOU get your info from!!??

  13. Betty Crook
    April 7, 2016 at 10:31 pm Reply

    I had a finger tip amputated in 2012, I really didn’t think I would have a nail left, it was totally cut off in a door. I had exposed bone and the tip was off all the way with a very flat bloody looking end. It got some what cleaned in the ER that night, but later I was send to the military ER hospital due to our insurance. They numb my hand and clean it out very well and I was set for surgery within 2 days. They reconstructive flap surgery from the end of my finger was done and I was told I had a small amount of nail matrix. If I didn’t like my new nail the Dr. would remove the nail. For now he wanted to see. Every thing seem good, and then in 2014 I notice a small black spot with in the nail. I had my normal family dr look at it, and she send me to a dermatologist. He didn’t think I had to worry about it. Now its 2016 and the one small black spot grows out in the nail but now I have three spots that are line up as the nail grows out. The dermatologist finally took a photo for record , but didn’t seen to be worried. I thinking I need to go back to the Dr that did my finger surgery I don’t want to just wait and see more black spots in my so called small nail. Have you heard of this before from an amputated finger tip and any help would be good. Thank you, Betty

    • An anonymous toenail fungus survivor
      May 11, 2016 at 3:34 am Reply

      No, I haven’t heard of this – but you’ve definitely chosen the right course of action by choosing to go and consult with the surgeon who performed the operation.

  14. Devon
    April 18, 2016 at 2:26 am Reply

    Hi, I noticed a dark brown/black spot about a centimeter long on the bottom right side of my right big toe, nail cancer does not run in my family, but I am very worried. It does not hurt, nor smell but my nail is decently thick. I am very concerned, help!?

    • An anonymous toenail fungus survivor
      May 11, 2016 at 3:33 am Reply

      Hey Devon, you should go see your doctor if you’re concerned about the health of your nails.

  15. Ali
    April 28, 2016 at 6:21 am Reply

    My toenails are not thickening or have any fungus symptoms at all, instead they have developed a blackish greyish surface. It’s similar to some African American nails. My fingernails have not changed, just my toenails. I’m pregnant so maybe it’s hormones or a raise in melatonin? I’m 36 and yes I am partly African American but this is the first time ever it has happened and I have very light fair skin. Is it the pregnancy or an odd beginning of something else? I definitely don’t have foot fungus and I don’t wear dark tinted shoes.

    • An anonymous toenail fungus survivor
      May 11, 2016 at 3:31 am Reply

      If you’re concerned about the change that has occurred to your nail, it’s best to consult with your doctor to confirm that there are no issues.

  16. Noah
    May 24, 2016 at 2:43 pm Reply

    I am very confused because i first started out with what looked like a paronychia toe because it looked like a small infection at the end of the nail and so i was put on antibiotics for like 2 months and never went away. I then was told that it might be an ingrown toenail and so we went to a foot doctor that trimmed around the toenail and told me to soak my feet in warm water with emsalm salt which the other doctor told me to do but it still didnt work and foot doctor also gave me like ear medicine 2 drops a day everyday on my toes and again no change. It did however started bleeding in the warm water and obviously thought it was cool/badass and after that it looked a lot bloodier and worse then before. And so i went for a physical yesterday and mom told me to meet her at the foot doctor because its in the same building and we went right in and so the foot doctor trimmed it once again it it started to bleed and forgot to mention granalation tissue started to come out from the left side of my right toenail (i have infection on both toes btw) and so it started bleeding he wiped it off and he kept poking under the toenail. I freaked out and he said it was definitely gonna fall off and grow back in 2 months after which i think is false cause everyone else says it takes longer on the internet and so he wrapped it in a thing with tape and it was hard to get off today because the tape was hard to get off cause it stuck to the dry blood of my toe and hurt as f*** to get off but saoked in water to get off remaining paper and worked and mom says it looks better but im freaked out if it will hurt to get my toe fallen off on its own. Please help me i have no idea what i have and i need to get rid of it. P.s. My left toe hurts a little bit casue infection is still there but looks great and doctor last time we went said my cubicle i think is called was trimmed off a little bit and that was the cause and last thing i think my foot doctor guy made it much worse than before and i think he made it so that the air is in my toenail and he said most likely to fall off but to me its gonna fall off and srry for the long story i just needed u to read it all and know my story.

  17. Mike
    May 28, 2016 at 8:53 pm Reply

    I have small black and blue coloring on the sides of both toe nails. It’s a little thick near were it’s black and blue. I have been playing a lot of racquets sports lately and I’m not sure if it’s fungus or just bruising from going side to side alot. I have filed it down and tried to clip as much of the nail off but it hasn’t gone away. Not sure what it is should I be worried since it’s on both feet? Thanks

  18. Caitlyn
    June 4, 2016 at 5:46 am Reply

    Hi,
    I wear dark socks constantly, so I thought that the dark spot on my pinkie toe was just fuzz. I was washing my feet in the shower today and noticed the black was underneath the nail. Just a few months ago I got rid of toenail fungus (yellow and brittle toenails) on a few of my other toes, but it wasn’t on/in my pinkie toe. Is this toenail fungus? There is no odor and I’ve always had thick nails. It isn’t brittle, either.
    Thanks in advance!

  19. Amy
    June 7, 2016 at 11:03 pm Reply

    Please help. Towards the left of my small toe on my right foot has started to develop a black line going down the nail. For the past few weeks I have been wearing shoes that have given me blisters oops so I don’t know if it’s that or not. I have cut as much from the top as I can but I can’t go any further down. My nail has become a little wobbly and I don’t know what to think of it. How can I sort it out on my own if possible?

  20. Missty
    August 8, 2016 at 4:23 pm Reply

    My toenail came completely off after breaking my big toe and it is growing back black and thick.what could it be?

  21. Colin
    August 13, 2016 at 2:34 pm Reply

    My big toenail has some black sideways stripe from left to right. The other parts are yellow-ish. Lately the back of the nail seems to have losened from the skin, leaving a ridge where i could basically push the nail forwards. This has been about 1.5-2 months. Any advice? I’d go to a doctor, but if not necessary…

    • Me Too
      December 27, 2016 at 5:22 pm Reply

      Also had a hit to big toe. Nail turned partially black but hasn’t fallen off (yet). It continues to grow normally, however new nail is growing back black. Is it still drawing blood from the injury which may be under the skin where the nail grows from? No pain.

  22. nicole
    August 18, 2016 at 6:32 am Reply

    Please help. I noticed a black line running horizontal in my nail bed of my left pinky toe. I at first thought it was dirt as its summer and I have been wearing flip flops lately. But I cleaned my toes and it’s the nail. Over the last few weeks I thought I saw it growing but doctor appointment with the va are hard too come by…today I am positive as it covers roughly 1/3 of my pinky toe nail now… my nail has had that thick and brittle area thing going for 10 years…I just thought it was genetics until I read this…what do you think itis

  23. Chris
    August 31, 2016 at 7:07 pm Reply

    Hi, I work at Chrysler, for the the most part in standing for long periods, and walking a lot! I’ve been there 4 years now and majority of my toenails are black or turning dark on both feet. I didn’t have this problem until a year or so in. I don’t remember having any injuries to my toes! Should I be worried?

  24. Jessie
    January 5, 2017 at 9:42 am Reply

    Hello, first of all my toe nail had a black spot but now it’s tuning white? What should I do?

    • An anonymous toenail fungus survivor
      March 23, 2017 at 8:42 am Reply

      If in doubt, see a doctor.

  25. Flo
    January 30, 2017 at 12:20 am Reply

    My blackish mottled toenail is only one nail and I’ve had it for years. I always wear nail polish, would this make a difference. Will it grow out if I don’t put on nail polish and let it grow out?

    • An anonymous toenail fungus survivor
      March 23, 2017 at 8:38 am Reply

      It may, but I’d recommend treating it to be sure.

  26. mabel
    February 2, 2017 at 4:41 am Reply

    I have a blue vertical lineon the very side of my big toe for 3years aproximatly , I went to the skin dr. and he gave me pills to take for 3 months and a nail polish to brush the nails , now reading about it I am worried ,I think he should have done a biopsy I had a becell litlle tumor removed on my eyelash 11years ago ,I told him but he didint seem to be concern , should I go back ? thanyou.

    • An anonymous toenail fungus survivor
      March 23, 2017 at 8:37 am Reply

      If in doubt, definitely go back and get an answer from your doctor.

  27. Kelly
    March 8, 2017 at 7:52 am Reply

    Hi, I’ve started working at a restaurant for about 3 weeks ago. Today I just noticed that there was dark red spot under both of my toe nail bed. I don’t feel pain at all. I don’t know what happen to my nails because I didn’t have any injury. I wish it’s not a symptom of cancer.