Thickened toenails (onychauxis) can be caused by many different conditions.  For example injury, fungal infection, or through to old age.

Here we’ll describe each of those conditions, their preventions, and the treatments.

What are thickened toenails?

Thickened toenails, otherwise known by the medical term: onychauxis, is a thickening of the toenails. Thickened toenails are often brittle and hard to cut, this means that the nail can split, or you can easily injure your toe while cutting thick nails.


A traumatic injury is a common cause of thickening nails. This is because injuring your toe can damage the nail plate, causing your toenails to become disfigured. Your toenails can be injured in lots of different ways. Such as dropping something on them, stubbing your toe, ill-fitting shoes, and playing sports, like football and running.

All of these can lead to damage to the nail plate from repeated trauma. The best way to prevent this from happening is to wear correctly fitting shoes and be careful not to stub or drop something on your toe.

Fungal Toenail Infection

A fungal toenail infection (onychomycosis) can also lead to the thickening of toenails because the fungus likes to live under the nail bed, which causes the nail to lift.  The fungus that lives under the nail grows there because it is usually a moist environment. You can usually tell a fungal infection from other types of nail thickening because of its distinct yellow or chalky appearance. The nail can also emit a foul odour.

Fungal nail infection.Fungal nail can often reach your nail bed through breaks to the nail. To prevent fungal nail you can limit your time spent barefoot. Particularly in areas like changing rooms where the fungus can spread and by limiting damage to the nail.

If you have a fungal infection of the skin on your foot (athlete’s foot), then you are more likely to contract fungal nail.  Similarly, if you have a fungal nail, then you are more likely to develop athlete’s foot.  The fungus will spread and take hold!

You are also more likely to get fungal nail if you are diabetic, have a weakened immune system, or have blood circulation problems.

If you suspect a fungal nail infection, then you can book a 5-minute fungal nail test at We Fix Feet and if tested positive, a management plan can be put in place to resolve your fungal problem.

Thickened Toenails in Old Age

Thickened toenails often come with age.  This is because the nail cells stack on top of each other, causing the nail to thicken.  This is called onychocytes. The best way to cut these toenails to prevent injury is to soak them before cutting. Also, use proper toenail clippers. If you’re unable to cut your own toenails, then you can book a general footcare appointment at We Fix Feet, and we will cut and file your nails as part of our General Footcare treatment.

If you develop thickened toenails or any other pain or discomfort in your feet. Visit our multi-award-winning footcare clinics in Beeston or Ilkeston. Alternatively, you can book an appointment with one of our Foot Healthcare Experts.