Having an ingrown toenail can be painful, especially if it goes unnoticed until it is digging into the side of your toe. This small injury can cause significant pain and, in some cases, can make it hard to wear shoes or walk. Over time, it can also worsen, sometimes leading to infections if you don’t properly remove it. Here’s what you need to know about onychocryptosis, the scientific name for ingrown toenails.
What Are Ingrown Toenails?
Ingrown toenails are a common problem many people have. They occur when the corner or the side of a toenail grows into the soft tissues of the toe. When this happens, it typically causes minor swelling, pain, and infection, especially if left untreated. The good news is you don’t have to just “deal with the pain.” Rather, with a few simple steps, you can take care of them right at home.
Common symptoms of ingrown toenails include:
- Inflamed, red skin in the area
- Pain and tenderness, especially if touched
- Swelling of the toe
- Infection development
What Causes Ingrown Toenails to Happen?
There are a few common reasons why you may develop ingrown toenails. Sometimes, it’s not known what the underlying cause is.
- Tight shoes: If your shoes are squishing your toes together, that crowding can cause the toenails to grow improperly. That’s especially the case if you are wearing those shoes for long periods.
- Cutting too close: When trimming the toenail, you can cause significant changes to the direction the nail grows if you cut too close. It’s also important to cut the toenail straight across rather than at an angle that could encourage improper growth.
- Injury: In some situations, such as when something drops on the toe, or you smash it into something, this can change the direction the nail grows in, causing ingrown toenails to occur.
- Curved Toenails: Some people have naturally curved toenails. If you have very curved toenails for any reason (even if you cut them that way), it can cause this to occur.
- Infections: Some people may develop this condition if they have infections of the nail present that alter the growth position.
How to Prevent Ingrown Toenails
It’s always best to prevent the onset of improper growth whenever possible. Luckily, there are a few simple things that you can do to ensure proper growth.
- Trim nails straight across. This encourages the nail to grow in a straight pattern rather than into the soft flesh. If you get a pedicure, ensure that the technician keeps your toenails straight.
- Wear proper footwear. If you are at risk for toe injuries, wear proper protective wear, including steel-toed boots, to prevent damage.
- Don’t let toenails grow too long. You don’t want them too short – which is below the edge of the toe, but you also want to keep them just at the end of the toe and not longer.
- Wear shoes that fit properly. Be sure to choose shoes that give your toes enough room. If you cannot wiggle your toes or you feel them overlapping each other, that’s an indication that you may need a wider shoe.
What to Do When You Have an Ingrown Toenail
Many times, you can fix an ingrown toenail on your own. If you do, be sure to follow a few specific tips:
First, be sure that you take care of this problem as soon as you notice it or pain develops. If an infection occurs, let a doctor take a closer look first. Signs of an infection include swelling, not being able to touch the toe because it’s too painful, a bad odor, or oozing.
Soak Your Foot
If there’s no real sign of significant infection, place your foot into a warm saltwater bath. Use mild soap as a detergent if you would like. Let it soak for a few minutes, and then pat it dry. Apply antibiotic ointment if necessary and a bandage. Don’t constrict the area too much.
When to See Us for Ingrown Toenails
If you have ingrown toenails on a consistent basis or are infected, seek out the help of a doctor. A podiatrist can provide you with the best level of care for this problem.
Some of the treatments your podiatrist may recommend include:
- Removing the nail and skin that’s impacted
- Slighting raising the nail to separate it from the skin, allowing it to grow beyond that area
- Removing part of the nail that’s causing the problem
- Using topical medications and antibiotics to treat infection
Most of the time, we can get the ingrown toenail fixed in no time without a lot of discomfort and few, if any, side effects.
Learn more about how we can help you. Give us a call at 269-373-1019 or contact us online today to schedule an appointment!