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What is Onychauxis?

Mary McMahon
Updated Mar 03, 2024
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Onychauxis is a thickening of the nails. It can be observed in both the toenails and the fingernails and may present in a number of different ways. Treatment requires addressing the underlying cause of the nail thickening and adopting a special nail care routine to encourage the overgrown nail to grow out so that it can be replaced with a healthy nail.

Sometimes, only one or two nails are involved, while in other cases, every nail exhibits onychauxis. The nails thicken upward but can also sprawl outward and may be yellowish to white, with crumbling edges in some patients. The thickness of the nails makes them difficult to trim safely and evenly. As a result, the nails are often allowed to grow out and they can start to curl as they get long.

Some congenital conditions lead to onychauxis, along with other problems. Improperly fitted shoes are another culprit, as are conditions like diabetes and circulatory problems in the feet or hands. Injuries to the nails can also cause this condition as a reactionary response. Skin conditions like psoriasis can sometimes be associated with problems with the nails, as can nutritional deficiencies where the body does not get the nutrients it needs to grow healthy nails.

The immediate treatment is trimming to bring the nails down to size. If the nails are ingrown or heavily curled, it may be advisable to ask a doctor for assistance. The nails will still be thickened, but they will be neater in appearance. Trimming can also reduce the pain associated with pressure to the nails and ingrown nails. Aggressive trimming will need to be continued to keep the nails in good condition.

If the cause is treatable or curable, treating the cause can resolve the thickened nails. Frequent trimming will remove the overgrown nail and make room for new nail growth at the base of the nail. When the cause cannot be addressed, making dietary changes can support healthy nails, and patients may also find that trimming and filing the nails regularly keeps their appearance neat. In the case of onychauxis involving the feet, fitting shoes with care can also help people feel more comfortable.

It is possible to apply polish products to thickened nails. A clear varnish can help protect the nail and may smooth the appearance to make the overgrowth less visible. Regular polishes can also be applied and may help mask the onychauxis from casual viewers.

The Health Board is dedicated to providing accurate and trustworthy information. We carefully select reputable sources and employ a rigorous fact-checking process to maintain the highest standards. To learn more about our commitment to accuracy, read our editorial process.
Mary McMahon
By Mary McMahon

Ever since she began contributing to the site several years ago, Mary has embraced the exciting challenge of being a The Health Board researcher and writer. Mary has a liberal arts degree from Goddard College and spends her free time reading, cooking, and exploring the great outdoors.

Discussion Comments
By bfree — On Jun 29, 2011

@goldensky - Vertical ridges on your nails are not an indication of a serious nail disease and usually there is no cause for worry.

Besides increasing your level of Vitamin C you need to use a good nail oil that contains both Jojoba oil and Vitamin E oil. I learned this from my dermatologists because like in your situation, my general practitioner didn't seem too concerned.

Our nails are made of several layers and to get rid of the ridges you have to penetrate the deepest layers with the oil.

It's important to use Jojoba oil because it has the power to penetrate through the hardened top layers making it possible for the other essential oils to get all the layers.

You can purchase a good nail oil at your finer nail salons but I've found that a simple Botanical oil from your local beauty supply works just as well.

By goldensky — On Jun 28, 2011

I've noticed ridges on my fingernails that run from the tip to the base of my nail. I asked my physician about it but he didn't think there was any cause for concern.

He only said that sometimes fingernail ridges are caused from a vitamin deficiency and that I should increase my vitamin C intake.

Is this true? Isn't there anything I can do to speed up the process to improve the appearance of my nails?

By Sierra02 — On Jun 28, 2011

I've had a thick yellow toe nail on my right foot for as long as I can remember. I questioned my doctor about it and he informed me that it's a fungus that developed from a toe injury that didn't heal properly.

I thought about it for awhile and remembered having my foot caught in the car door as a child. I nearly lost my pinky toe, the very one with the fungus.

The onychauxis treatment he put me on is regular trimming and filing to encourage new growth and a change in my diet to promote a healthier toenail that consists of large amounts of fruits and vegetables.

Mary McMahon
Mary McMahon

Ever since she began contributing to the site several years ago, Mary has embraced the exciting challenge of being a...

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