Having an ingrown toenail with its edge growing into the side of your skin can make you painfully aware of a toe you usually never notice. Suddenly, that is all you can think about and something seemingly as insignificant as a toe keeps you from doing everyday things like your morning jog or wearing your favorite pair of shoes.
As the nail continues to grow into your skin, pain increases, and the irritation gets worse and worse. You don’t really know what to do about it except to try digging that nail out with whatever sharp object you can find.
Ingrown toenails are very easily treated, even from home. So, let’s talk a little more about this pesky nuisance. What exactly is an ingrown toenail? What causes them? How can you keep your toes from suffering through it? And, how can you nip it in the bud whenever, if ever, they do come about?
After all, this isn’t just about beauty, it’s also about your comfort.
It may sound like a newly discovered Pokémon creature, but in short, onychocryptosis is the medical term physicians use to describe ingrown toenails.
An ingrown toenail is a fairly common condition that happens to most people at least once throughout our lifetime. Essentially, an ingrown toenail will happen when the skin on one or both sides of the nail grows over the edge or edges of the nail. The opposite can also happen – the nail may grow into the skin.
If left untreated, this condition can become extremely painful and the infection may become worse over time. Some are even considered to be chronic conditions, with repeated instances of pain and infection.
Interestingly enough, your big toe is most likely to be afflicted by ingrown toenails, rather than your other toes. Although, the rest of the “piggy’s” may also experience this uncomfortable condition from time to time, as well.
Common Causes and Preventions
Some of the most common causes for ingrown toenails are actually very easy to avoid. For instance:
- Cutting your nails too short or in a curved line. This is one of the most common causes for ingrown toenails. The skin can fold over the nail or the nail may begin growing back into the skin. Try not to be overzealous with your trimming and always remember to cut them straight across rather than in a curved line.
- Stubbing your toes on that “always-in-the-way” coffee table. Trauma in general can cause ingrown toenails, from stubbing or jamming to repeated pressure like running and playing soccer. During these instances, your toes are often warm, moist and encapsulated in a bacteria-rich environment, thereby increasing your risk of infection.
- Wearing shoes and socks that are too tight, too small, and/or too short. Squeezing your feet and, consequentially, your toes is never a good idea – you may force your toenails into one or both sides of the skin, also increasing chances of infection. This is especially common with teenagers who constantly and quickly outgrow their footwear.
- You were born this way! For some people, ingrown toenails can be hereditary. If your toes are too small in comparison to your nails, or if your nails are naturally curved and/or thick, you may suffer from reoccurring ingrown toenails. That being the case, you should carefully heed all the precautionary steps above.
Tackle the Problem Yourself – Home Remedies
Although, ingrown toenails can be painful, there are some easy steps you can take at home – DIY treatments – that will most likely take care of the situation.
- Let the situation take its course. If there is no sign of serious infection – swelling, painful to the touch, oozing or foul odor, then your best option might be to just let the toenail grow naturally. Keeping in mind, of course, to not constrict the toes and to give plenty of “breathing room” (i.e.: opt for open-toe shoes and loose-fitted socks).
- Soak your feet in warm salt water. A mild soap detergent can also work just as well as salt. Just submerge your feet in the solution for a few minutes. Once done, thoroughly pat the area dry with a clean towel, apply antibiotic ointment and cover the toe with a bandage. Again, refrain from constricting the area and leave plenty of room for your toes to “breathe”.
Usually, if there is excessive swelling, pain, or discharge, the toenail is probably infected and should be examined by a podiatrist.
Never ignore symptoms of infection – when left untreated, an infected ingrown toenail can spread and result in serious damage, especially if you have diabetes or suffer from an impaired immune system.
Take Your Toes to the Office – Doctor Remedies
There is good news, however – ingrown toenails can be easily diagnosed and treated by a podiatrist if remedies at home don’t necessarily seem to be working.
Some of the treatment options available are:
- Slightly raising the nail. By doing so, your nail will be separated from the overlapping skin and is then able to grow above the edge of the skin, rather than underneath.
- Removing part of the nail. After a minor anesthetic, your podiatrist will remove the part of your nail that is causing the problem.
- Removing both nail and skin (nail bed). This procedure is done when the condition is more severe and is used to prevent the problematic nail from growing back.
- Topical medications and antibiotics may also be prescribed if determined that the toe is, indeed, infected or has potential of becoming infected.
Most visits to the physicians regarding ingrown toenails are quick, easy, and fairly painless. The treatments provided show little-to-no side effects and you will be able to resume your regular activities right away.
So, don’t let your toes run your life!
Instead, give us a call at (269) 373-1019 to schedule a consultation. Our team will be happy to assist.