An ingrown toenail is when the nail is curved downward and grows into the skin, usually at the sides of the nail. This “digging in” of the nail irritates the skin, often creating pain, redness, swelling and warmth in the toe.
If an ingrown nail causes a break in the skin, bacteria may enter and cause an infection, which can lead to exudate draining from the area.
What Causes an Ingrown Toenail?
An ingrown toenail can be the result of trauma, such as stubbing your toe, having an object fall on your toe, or engaging in activities that involve repeated pressure on the toes, such as kicking or running.
The most common cause of ingrown toenails is incorrect trimming. Cutting your nails too short encourages the skin next to the nail to fold over the nail. Another cause of ingrown toenails is wearing shoes that are tight or short. Certain nail conditions are often associated with ingrown toenails. For example, if you have had a toenail fungal infection or if you have lost a nail through trauma, you are at greater risk for developing an ingrown toenail.
Treatment of Ingrown Toenails
If you don’t have an infection or any medical conditions that may affect your healing, you can soak your foot in room-temperature water with Epsom salts, and gently massage the side of the nail fold to help irrigate the area.
Avoid attempting “bathroom surgery.” Repeated cutting of the nail can cause the condition to worsen over time. If your symptoms fail to improve, make an appointment to see a Foot Mechanics Podiatrist.
Home treatment is strongly discouraged if you suspect you have an infection, or if you have a medical condition that puts your feet at high risk, for example diabetes, nerve damage in the foot, or poor circulation.
Podiatry care of Ingrown Toenails:
The Podiatrist will examine your toe and select the treatment best suited for you.
Treatment may include:
Oral antibiotics. If an infection is present, an oral antibiotic may be prescribed on referral to your doctor.
Surgery. A simple procedure performed in the clinic and is commonly needed to ease the pain and remove the offending nail. Surgery may involve numbing the toe and removing a corner of the nail, a larger portion of the nail, or the entire nail.
Permanent removal. This treatment prevents the recurrence of an ingrown toenail. The Podiatrist will determine the most appropriate procedure for you and explain why.
Following nail surgery, a light bandage will be applied. Most people experience very little pain after surgery and may resume normal activity the next day.
Preventing Ingrown Toenails
Many cases of ingrown toenails may be prevented by following these two important tips:
Trim your nails properly. Cut your toenails in a fairly straight line, and don’t cut them too short. You should be able to get your fingernail under the sides and end of the nail.
Avoid poorly-fitting shoes. Don’t wear shoes that are short or tight in the toe box. Also avoid shoes that are loose, because they too cause pressure on the toes, especially when you run or walk briskly.
Myth Busting – Ingrown Toenails!
Truth: Cutting a “V” does not affect the growth of the toenail. New nail growth occurs from the nail bed and will continue to grow in whatever shape the nail bed is in.
Truth: Repeated nail trimming fails to correct future nail growth and can make the condition worse.
Truth: Cotton placed under the nail can be harmful. It can easily harbour bacteria and encourage infection.
Truth: Over-the-counter topical medications may mask the pain, but they fail to address the underlying problem.
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