Ingrown Toenails

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 or in the hospital.

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:

  1. Soak your feet in room temperature 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.
  2. Apply antibiotic cream on the tender area and bandage the toe to prevent infection.
  3. You can use over-the-counter pain relievers to ease the pain but understand this will not address the cause.
  4. You may have to wear open-toed shoes until your foot heals.

Hospital treatment

If your ingrown toenail does not respond positively to your home treatment, is infected, or you want a speedy 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:

  1. 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.
  2. 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.
  3. 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. However, when they happen, podiatrists in Frederick are the best bet for a speedy and permanent recovery.

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 certified and experienced podiatrists who will treat you and provide guidance on how best to care for your toes. Visit us today, and let us take care of your toenails for you.

Did You Know? 

If you suffer from ingrown toenails, you’re not alone. In fact, having ingrown toenails are so common that 20 out of 100 people who visit their family medical practitioner due to foot problems do so because of issues with an ingrown toenail! While teens and young adults often develop ingrown toenails because of hormonal changes, participation in sports, and because they sweat more, they are common in older folks as well. Seniors are at a higher risk because of medical issues like diabetes and more difficulty caring for their feet, and as they age the toenails become thicker and harder to cut. The good news is that good foot care and professional treatment of ingrown toenails can eliminate the problem.  

What is an Ingrown Toenail?  

Ingrown toenails are a common foot problem, and generally affects the big toes more often. When the toenail grows into the skin next to the nail bed the skin area surrounding it can become inflamed and painful. The inflammation causes the blood supply to that area of the toe to increase, causing it to become red, swollen and painful. When new tissue begins to start growing over the edge of the toenail a granuloma may form. This granular tissue can weep, secrete pus, bleed, and if bacteria gets in the wound, may have an unpleasant odor. Pressure on the area can cause considerable pain and may make wearing shoes uncomfortable. 

What Causes an Ingrown Toenail? 

Put simply, an infected ingrown toenail is commonly caused by the nail continuing to grow into the skin surrounding it. The painful symptoms occur when the edge of the toenail presses into the skin. If the nail edge injures the skin surface and the soft tissue beneath it, inflammation occurs. When it comes to ingrown toenail causes, there are multiple factors that make it more likely you’ll experience an ingrown toenail, including: 

  • Cutting your toenails too short or rounding them off at the edges 
  • Wearing shoes that are too tight or fit poorly 
  • Having excessively sweaty feet 
  • Having specific medical conditions such as diabetes, heart or kidney failure, water retention in your extremities, and chronic venous issues in your legs 
  • Being overweight or obese 
  • You have a specific curved genetic toenail growth pattern, with a high dome shape and a narrow nail bed 
  • You are taking cancer medications 

What is the Ingrown Toenail Treatment?  

Ingrown toenails are easy to treat if you visit your podiatrist at an early stage. The specific treatment that is best for an ingrown toenail depends on how severe it is. For more severe ingrown toenails your podiatrist may recommend the use of special braces or gutter splints to help the nail to grow free of the edge again. If you have medical issues such as diabetes that put you at a higher risk of foot problems you should talk with your doctor before trying any self-treatment options. It’s also a good idea to see a foot specialist if these measures don’t alleviate the pain or if the skin around the ingrown toenail is severely inflamed, bleeding, or is producing pus because that indicates a need for professional intervention and possible surgery. There are various techniques and procedures your podiatrist may recommend, such as ingrown toenail removal, depending on your unique situation. 

What if an Ingrown Nail is Left Untreated?   

It is important to seek treatment of an ingrown nail as soon as possible, while still at an early stage and before there is considerable toenail pain. There are typically three stages of severity: 
Stage 1: The nail is growing into the skin on the side of the nail bed. The area has become inflamed and the skin surrounding the nail is painful. 
Stage 2: New skin is growing at the edges of the ingrown toenail. This inflamed tissue (granuloma)is weeping, bleeding, and/or producing pus. 
Stage 3: The granulated tissue at the toenail edge has started growing over the nail bed edge, is chronically inflamed and constantly oozes pus.  
Left untreated, your ingrown toenail can continue to cause pain and discomfort and may become infected, requiring antibiotics and complicated surgery to remedy the condition. 

How Can I Prevent an Ingrown Toenail?   

It is possible to avoid or fix ingrown toenail issues through proper personal foot care unless you are not flexible enough to cut your toenails yourself, in which case a professional pedicurist can provide suitable toenail trimming. When cutting your own nails, leave the side edges straight and avoid rounding them up on the outer edges. Leave the toenails long enough that the corners rest freely against the skin at the sides. 
If there is little pain and the inflammation is mild, you can try an ingrown toenail home treatment. Soak the affected foot in a warm, soapy footbath and treat the inflamed area of the toe with an antiseptic application, anti-inflammatory tincture, gel, or cream. Remember to dry the entire foot thoroughly, wait as long as possible before putting on shoes, and avoid putting any pressure on toe or nail area.
Make sure your shoes fit properly, aren’t too tight and have plenty of room for your toes to move without hitting the top of the shoe. Opt for open-toed or “breathable” shoes with absorbent, lightweight socks to eliminate sweaty feet.  

Where Can I Go to Treat an Ingrown Toenail?  

Professional foot care with an experienced podiatrist is essential to getting the treatment you need to resolve your foot issues quickly. You may be wondering, “What’s the best place near me for information about how to fix ingrown toenails?” Give us a call to make an appointment with one of the top doctors at Frederick Foot and Ankle today! 

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