ingrown-toenailIngrown toenails can form when the side of a toenail begins to grow into the flesh surrounding the nail. As a result, the affected toe—most commonly the big toe—may become red, swollen, painful, and—in severe cases—infected.

There are many reasons why an ingrown toenail may develop. Improperly cutting your toenails is a major cause of ingrown toenails. If toenails aren’t cut straight across or are cut too short, the likelihood of getting an ingrown toenail may increase. Other causes include having unusually curved toenails, wearing shoes that don’t give your toes an ample amount of space, and hereditary factors. Injuring the toe by stubbing it or having an object fall on it may also lead to ingrown toenails. If left untreated, an ingrown toenail can lead to further complications with the foot.

If you are someone who has diabetes, it’s extremely important to remain mindful of ingrown toenail prevention, as minor cuts or simple scrapes can lead to serious complications. You can prevent ingrown toenails by ensuring toenails are straight across and at a moderate length, wearing shoes that fit properly, and checking your feet daily for signs of foot issues.

Treatment for an ingrown toenail will vary on a case by case basis. One form of treatment requires lifting the ingrown nail and placing a splint or piece of cotton underneath. Another method for a more severe case would involve partially removing the nail. For cases that need extreme care, the nail itself and tissue would have to be removed.

If you’d like more information about ingrown toenails, we recommend you consult with a podiatrist who can give you a proper diagnosis and go over your treatment options.

What Are Ingrown Toenails?

An ingrown toenail occurs when the edge of a toenail grows into the skin on the side of the nail, rather than growing straight. This can happen due to various reasons, including improper nail trimming, wearing tight shoes, or having naturally curved toenails. It causes a lot of inconvenience. Ingrown toenails are a common foot problem that can be uncomfortable but is usually treatable with proper care.

Common Symptoms

Recognizing the signs of an ingrown toenail is essential to address the problem promptly. The typical symptoms include:

Pain and Tenderness: When you have an ingrown toenail, the affected toe can hurt quite a bit. A constant ache or sharp pain can be felt, especially when pressing on it or wearing tight shoes. Even the slightest pressure can make it feel sore and sensitive.

Redness and Swelling: The skin around the ingrown toenail often turns red, similar to how skin looks when it is irritated or inflamed. In addition to the redness, the area becomes swollen or puffy.

Infection: Ignoring an ingrown toenail for too long can lead to an infection. Pus may form as well. This makes the condition more painful. An infected ingrown toenail needs attention to prevent it from getting worse.

Treatment Options

When dealing with an ingrown toenail, there are various treatment options to consider, depending on the severity of the problem:

Soaking: Soaking the infected foot in warm and soapy water can be soothing. It will reduce pain and swelling. Also, the skin around the ingrown toenail will get softer and easier to manage.

Proper Trimming: When trimming the toenails, cut them straight across instead of rounding the edges. This prevents them from growing into the skin and reduces the chance of ingrown toenails in the future.

Cotton Wedge: Placing a small piece of cotton under the ingrown edge of the nail will create a gentle cushion. It helps lift the nail away from the skin and provides relief. This can be particularly helpful during the early stages of an ingrown toenail.

Antibiotics: If an ingrown toenail leads to an infection, a doctor might prescribe antibiotics. These are medications that help the body fight off the infection and heal faster.

Over-the-Counter Pain Relievers: Take over-the-counter pain relievers like ibuprofen can help to get relief. They will reduce pain and discomfort while treating the ingrown toenail.

Partial Nail Removal: In more severe cases or when other treatments do not work, a doctor might need to remove part of the ingrown toenail. It is similar to carefully trimming a piece of the nail to allow the area to heal correctly. This procedure is usually done with local anesthesia to minimize pain.

Recovery Tips

Recovery from an ingrown toenail may take a little time. However, these steps can help to heal faster and more comfortably:

Keep it Clean: Every day, gently clean the affected area with mild soap and warm water. Gently pat it dry with a clean towel after cleaning. This not only keeps the toe clean but also prevents any potential infection.

Wear Comfortable Shoes: Choose shoes that do not squeeze the toe. They should have enough room for your toe to move comfortably. Tight shoes can put extra pressure on the ingrown toenail and make it worse.

Elevate Your Foot: Whenever sitting or lying down, try to keep the foot raised. Prop it up with a pillow or cushion for comfort. This helps reduce swelling and promotes faster healing by letting excess fluid drain away from the toe.

Avoid Aggravating Activities: Be cautious about activities that could hurt your toe. This includes things like kicking a soccer ball or running long distances. Give the affected toe some time to heal without putting extra stress on it.

Follow Medical Advice: If a healthcare professional has treated the ingrown toenail, follow their instructions carefully. Adhering to their guidance ensures proper healing. Otherwise, the toenail might get infected.

Moisturize and Protect the Skin: Keep the skin around the toenail moisturized with a mild lotion. Use a band-aid or sterile dressing to protect the area from friction or rubbing against shoes.

Prevention Strategies

Preventing ingrown toenails is easier than dealing with them:

Proper Trimming: When trimming toenails, never cut them too short. It increases the risk of ingrown toenails. Additionally, do not round the edges of the nails. Trimming nails correctly significantly reduces the chances of them growing into the skin.

Footwear: Select comfortable shoes that fit properly. The toes should be able to move comfortably within the shoe. Tight or narrow shoes can put pressure on and potentially cause ingrown toenails.

Good Hygiene: Keeping feet clean and dry is essential to prevent ingrown toenails. Wash them regularly with mild soap and water and dry them thoroughly, especially between your toes. Moisture-related issues can make your skin soft and more susceptible to ingrown toenails.

Avoid Tight Socks: When choosing socks, opt for those that fit well but do not squeeze the toes tightly. Wearing socks that are too tight can create friction and increase the risk of ingrown toenails.

Protect Your Feet: During activities that could potentially injure your toes, such as playing sports, make sure to wear protective footwear. This extra layer of protection shields the toes from harm and minimizes the risk of ingrown toenails.

Ingrown toenails may be a common problem, but with the right knowledge and care, you can manage them effectively and reduce the chances of them coming back. If you ever find yourself dealing with an ingrown toenail, do not hesitate to seek medical advice from Bayshore Podiatry Center. We are available at (813) 877-6636.

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