What are ingrown toenails?
Simply put, an ingrown toenail is a nail that’s grown into the soft edges of the toe instead of growing over it. The medical term for ingrown toenails is onychocryptosis or unguis incarnates. This nail problem is most common in the big toe. You may notice pain, redness, and swelling or even pus drainage. This indicates that your ingrown toenail is infected.
Anyone can experience ingrown toenails, however adults are more likely to develop them than children. If your toenails are curved or thick, your risk of developing this painful condition is higher.
What causes ingrown toenails?
Many different factors can cause ingrown toenails. The most common include:
- Restricting footwear – When the toes and toenails are crowded by shoes, ingrown toenails may result. This doesn’t just include your narrow shoes, tight-fitting socks or tights can cause this as well.
- Improper toenail trimming – If you cut your toenails too short, or cut the edges, it encourages the skin surrounding the toenail to grow over the nail causing the toenail to pierce the skin.
- Injury – Any sort of trauma to the toenail could cause it to become ingrown. This includes stubbing or dropping a heavy item on your toe.
- Unusual curvature – Toenails that are unusually curved in nature are more likely to become ingrown.
- Stance – Even the way you walk or stand could cause ingrown toenails. Try to maintain proper posture to prevent this.
- Sweating – If your skin is moist and warm, you are more at risk of developing ingrown toenails. Always practice proper hygiene when it comes to your feet.
How do I know if I have an ingrown toenail?
Ingrown toenails are hard to miss! The most prevalent symptom is pain from the nail piercing into the soft tissue on the side of your toe. The early symptoms include the skin feeling tender, hard or looking swollen. Once the toenail does grow into the skin, bacteria can then enter the wound. If it becomes infected you will notice your skin becoming red, swollen and warm. In severe cases, blood or pus may ooze from the infection.
How are ingrown toenails treated?
As soon as you notice any of the symptoms above, begin treatment. Many times you can treat ingrown toenails at home. The first thing you can do is to soak your foot in warm water 3-4 times a day for 15 minutes. While your foot is soaking, try pushing the skin away from the toenail. Remember to be gentle! Do this each day until the toenail grows out enough so it can be trimmed. In addition to soaking, make sure your toes have plenty of space. They should be able to wiggle inside your shoes. Take medications like Tylenol or ibuprofen to help with the pain. Follow this home treatment plan for 3 days, if it doesn’t help then its time to make an appointment at NorthPointe Foot & Ankle.
Surgery may be recommended by your foot specialist to remove part of the toenail. The first thing the NorthPointe podiatrists will do is numb your toe so that you won’t feel a thing during the procedure. During the surgery, the edges of the toenail will be cut, making it narrower. In some cases, we may cut away some of the skin on both sides of the nail to promote healthy future growth. Follow the post-op instructions given to you to ensure a full recovery.
Can ingrown toenails be prevented?
Yes they can. There are a few ways to prevent them:
- Proper toenail trimming – Always cut your toenails straight across. Never cut the corners of your nails. Try cutting your nails after a bath or shower; it will make the process easier. Also, do not cut your toenails too short.
- Shoes – Check your shoes and socks to make sure they fit properly. Your toes shouldn’t feel crowded when you wear them. It’s also important to make sure your shoes aren’t too loose. If they are, your toes could hit the end of your shoes. This adds pressure, which causes ingrown toenails.
- Practicing proper hygiene – Keep your feet clean and dry at all times. It will significantly reduce your risk of developing an ingrown toenail.
Do you have a toenail problem? Whether they’re ingrown, black or you have toenail fungus the podiatrists and staff at NorthPointe Foot & Ankle can help. Our Berkley, MI office has been serving the Berkley, Southfield, Royal Oak, Oak Park, and Ferndale areas for over 30 years. Call our office at (248) 545-0100, or visit our website to schedule an appointment.