Ingrown toenails are a common and painful condition that can affect anyone. They occur when the edge of the toenail grows into the skin, often causing irritation, inflammation, and even infection. While an ingrown toenail can sometimes be treated at home, there are instances where medical attention is needed. In this article, we will discuss the causes, symptoms, home remedies, and treatment options for ingrown toenails, and when it’s best to see a healthcare professional.
Causes of Ingrown Toenails:
Ingrown toenails can be caused by a variety of factors, including:
– Genetics: Many people inherit the tendency for ingrown toenails.
– Trauma: Injuries or activities that repeatedly stress the toes, such as kicking or running, can cause ingrown toenails.
– Improper trimming: Cutting your toenails too short or rounding the edges encourages the skin around the nails to grow over them.
– Shoes and socks: Wearing tight, narrow shoes that crowd the toes, or socks that are too tight or short can cause ingrown toenails.
– Nail conditions: Fungal infections or losing a toenail due to an injury can also cause ingrown nails.
Symptoms of Ingrown Toenails:
The symptoms of an ingrown toenail often begin with pain, redness, and swelling, and may include:
– Tenderness or discomfort around the nail
– Skin next to the nail becoming swollen or hard
– Formation of pus
– Development of a foul smell
– Skin around the toenail becoming infected
Treating Ingrown Toenails:
In most cases, mild-to-moderate ingrown toenails can be treated at home. However, people with certain medical conditions, such as diabetes or circulatory problems, should seek medical attention.
– Soak the affected foot in warm, soapy water two to three times a day.
– Gently massage the side of the nail fold to help reduce inflammation.
– Avoid cutting the nail further or attempting to “dig” it out.
– Wear open-toed shoes or sandals instead of tight-fitting shoes.
– Take over-the-counter pain medication if needed.
When to See a Doctor:
It is time to see a foot specialist if:
– Home treatment hasn’t provided relief after a week or so.
– The toe is infected, bleeding or showing signs of pus.
– You have a condition that could affect the healing of the toenail, such as poor circulation or diabetes.
– Pain is severe.
– The toenail is growing excessively into the surrounding tissues.
In some cases, a healthcare professional may perform a minor surgical procedure to remove part of the toenail. This procedure is often performed in-office and only causes minimal discomfort. More severe cases of ingrown toenails may require partial or complete toenail removal, which involves removing the entire nail and allowing it to regrow naturally.
Preventing Ingrown Toenails:
Ingrown toenails can sometimes be prevented. Consider the following tips:
– Cut your toenails straight across and slightly longer than the end of the toe.
– Avoid cutting the edges of the nails too short or rounding them.
– Wear properly fitting shoes and socks that aren’t too tight.
– Keep your feet clean and dry.
Ingrown toenails can be painful and even lead to infection, so it’s important to treat them properly. If at-home remedies don’t prove effective, it’s best to see a foot specialist like Dr Gilbert Huang DPM, for proper treatment. Preventing ingrown toenails is possible by practicing healthy nail care, wearing proper footwear, and keeping the feet clean and dry.