While it may not feel like it, summer is just around the corner and that means it’s sandals weather. We want our feet to look their best so we need to make sure they are healthy. One unsightly (and painful) condition we should take care of is our ingrown toenails. An ingrown toenail occurs when the edges of your toenail grow down into your skin rather than straight out. This usually affects the big toe, although it can happen to any toe, and is quite painful.
How do I know if I have an ingrown toenail?
Ingrown toenails are not fun. If you experience pain, redness, swelling, or unusual warmth in your toe, it could be an ingrown toenail. Some people may only experience slight discomfort and tenderness at the edges of the toenails. Even if your condition doesn’t seem that bad, the digging nail can cause ruptures in the skin through which bacteria can enter and lead to infection. Signs of an infection include spreading redness, changes in skin temperature, swelling, and pus around or leaking from the ingrown area. Some ingrown toenails can be treated at home, but it is still important that you see a podiatrist, especially if you see signs of infection or if you have other conditions such as diabetes.
Why did I get an ingrown toenail?
There are many causes of ingrown nails.
- Improper trimming of the toenails. Nails should be cut straight across using a proper pair of nail clippers. Do not round the edges of the nails or if you do, do so only slightly with a nail file.
- Wearing tight fitting or pointed toe shoes will press the toes together and put pressure on the nails. This can bend the nails, causing them to grow down into the skin.
- Acute injuries or repetitive trauma to the toes can cause ingrown toenails. This is common among athletes such as soccer players.
- Ingrown toenails also run in the family. Some families have more naturally rounded toenails and/or more upturned bones. These characteristics can lead to ingrown toenails.
What are my homecare options?
There are plenty of online tutorials that tell you how to deal with ingrown toenails. The fact is, while some of these remedies may help alleviate symptoms for a time, they will not solve an ingrown toenail and can actually make things worse. Take an over the counter pain reliever if needed to reduce swelling and discomfort. Another easy thing to do is to soak your feet in warm water. This can soften the skin around the nail, making it possible for you to gently massage the edge of the nail away from the skin. Do this several times a day, wrap the toe in fresh gauze, and make sure to wear shoes that give your toes plenty of room.
Do not try to cut your toenail! Repeated cutting of the nail will make things worse. Remember, when you see your podiatrist cutting your ingrown toenail, they are using specialized sterile tools and have years of training and experience. Doing it yourself in your bathroom at home is not the same thing. If you are a diabetic or have a circulatory disorder, do not attempt any home remedy. Make an appointment with your podiatrist right away.
What will my podiatrist do?
First, your podiatrist will evaluate your ingrown toenail and ask about the causes and symptoms. If the ingrown toenail is not infected and not severely ingrown, your doctor may be able to simply cut a small portion of the nail away and prescribe a topical treatment to avoid infection. A process called Partial Nail Plate Avulsion may also be recommended for those with chronic ingrown toenails. During this procedure, the doctor will inject the toe with an anesthetic and fully remove the side of the nail that is ingrown.
I just can’t stress it enough; your feet are a very important part of your overall health. Caring for them properly is essential. This means paying attention to them and treating any conditions that may arise. Even if an ingrown toenail seems like a little matter, it can lead to more serious health problems and put a damper on our summer sandal wearing. If you think you have an ingrown toenail, call to make an appointment today and we can get your feet looking pretty in no time!