An ingrown nail is painful and a source of extreme discomfort.
An ingrown toenail happens when the nail curves and grows, extending into the skin. It happens on either edge of the nail and usually affects the big toenail.
By digging into the soft flesh bordering the nail, it causes irritation, swelling, and redness around the area. When it is left unattended, it can also result in infection when bacteria enter the broken skin.
Causes of an ingrown toenail
An ingrown toenail is caused by an imbalance between the toenail size and the skin’s enlargement around the nail edge. The following factors create such conditions for ingrown toenails.
- Hereditary factors: ingrown toenails can be an inherited condition.
- Improper trimming practices: one of the common causes of ingrown toenails is cutting the nails too short on the sides allowing the skin next to the nail to fold over it.
- Trauma; an ingrown toenail can happen due to extreme force exerted on the nail, like stubbing your toe or a heavy object falling on it. Repeated pressure activities like kicking and running can also cause trauma to the toenail.
- Improperly fitting footwear: if you have tight or short socks and shoes, you are likely to pressure your toenails into the soft flesh sides.
- Nail conditions and natural shape: the toenail’s natural shape may be curving inwards like pincers. Such a shape is likely to lead to ingrown toenails.
- Aggressive pedicures and nail picking and nail picking can also cause trauma, leading to ingrown nails.
Treatment options for ingrown toenails
Depending on the severity of the case, treatment for ingrown toenails can happen at home, in a medical office, or in severe cases in an operating room.
Home treatment options
Home treatment options are applicable if:
- You do not have an infection on the ingrown toenail and
- You are not suffering from a medical condition like diabetes or nerve damage.
Follow these steps:
- Soak your feet in warm water for 15 – 20 minutes about three times a day. You can also gently massage the side of the nail fold. These actions will help relieve the swelling and tenderness.
- Apply antibiotic cream on the tender area and bandage the toe to prevent infection.
- You can use over-the-counter pain relievers to ease the pain, however this is temporary relief.
- You may have to wear open-toed shoes until your foot heals.
If your ingrown toenail does not respond positively to your home treatment, is infected, or you want a faster recovery, you can seek medical attention. A podiatrist is an expert you should seek out as they are trained and qualified in this area.
A podiatrist will examine your toe, and based on the symptoms; he will recommend the best treatment option, which may include:
- Lifting the nail in case of a slightly overgrown nail. By separating the nail from the skin, it gets the chance to grow above the skin edge.
- Partially removing the nail in the case of a more severe ingrown nail. The doctor will temporarily numb your toe and then trim or remove the ingrown portion.
- Removing the nail root in case of repeated cases on the same toe. This treatment may prevent part of the nail from growing back, but it solves the issue permanently.
Proper care of the nails, including trimming practices and good footwear, can help prevent ingrown nails.
At Frederick Foot & Ankle, we are ready to help you improve the quality of your life. Our services focus on your lower extremity health and function, including toenails. We have experienced podiatrists who will provide guidance on how to best care for your toes.