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!