When you have an ingrown toenail, it is curved and grows into your skin, generally into the borders of the nail. This action of the nail digging into your skin will cause irritation, pain, swelling and redness in your toe.
If this toenail causes a break in your skin, you could find that bacteria enters and causes an infection, often marked by a foul odor and drainage. At that time, even if the toe isn’t painful, swollen or red, a nail which curves downward into your skin will turn into an infection.
What Causes Ingrown Toenail?
An ingrowing toe nail can be the result of several different things. Shoes which fit poorly and toenails that are not trimmed properly are the most common causes. Your skin on the edge of your toenail could become infected and red. The big toe is most often affected; however, any toenail can be afflicted.
When there is extra pressure placed on your toe, an ingrown toenail can occur. This pressure can be caused by shoes which are too loose or too tight. If you walk a lot or don’t participate in athletics, a shoe which is even a bit tighter can make this problem occur. Deformities of the toes or foot can place extra pressure on your toe.
Improperly trimmed nails can also cause toenails that are ingrown.
- Trimming the nails too short, or rounding the edges instead of cutting right across can cause the nail to curl down and grow into your skin.
- Inability to reach the toes easily, poor eyesight, or having thick nails can make it difficult to trim the nails properly.
- Tearing or picking at the corners of the nails can also cause ingrown toenails.
Sometimes, people are born with nails which grow downward and are curved. Others have toenails which are too big from their toes. Stubbing your toe or other injuries can also cause an ingrown toenail.
What Are the Risk Factors of Ingrown Toenail?
There are several risk factors which might cause you to have an ingrown toenail. Look below to find some of the most common factors:
- Athletics, especially any stop and start sports like soccer, tennis and basketball
- Pressure that is repetitive or trauma to the feet
- Gait that is abnormal
- Poor foot hygiene
- Unusually long toes
- Congenital toenail deformity
- Fungus infection of the nails
- Excessive sweating or hyperhidrosis
- Bony tumors of the toes or soft tissue
- Edema of the lower extremities
How Is Ingrown Toenail Treated?
For Not Infected Ingrown Toenail
If the area of the ingrown nail is small, it is possible to keep it from getting worse, and it can be cured sometimes by the following treatments. These can be done by a podiatrist or GP, or you can be shown how to do it by yourself.
- Soak your toe in water for ten minutes so the folds of skin around the affected nail are softened.
- Push the skin fold over the ingrown nail down and away from the nail with a cotton swab. Do this from the root and then move the swab towards the end of the nail.
- Repeat this each day for a few weeks, letting the nail grow.
- As the nail grows, push a bit of cotton wool under it to help the nail grow over the skin instead of growing into it. Change this wool out each day.
- Don’t cut the nail; instead, let it grow out until it's clear of the end of your toe. Then cut straight across and don’t round it off at the end.
There are variations of this method, but the point is to protect the skin from growing over the edge of the nail.
For Infected Ingrown Toenail
You can tell the nailfold is infected if you have symptoms such as redness and swelling near the ingrowing nail, plus pus near the nail or under the skin nearby. You might have throbbing pain and redness spreading over the toe or a fever if the infection is getting worse.
You may need to take antibiotics to treat the infection. It could also help to soak your feet in salty, warm water, then you should carefully dry and rest your feet.
You should see your doctor if you have troublesome and persistent symptoms from the ingrown nail. If you have a poor immune system or diabetes, see your doctor much sooner.
For Persistent Ingrown Toenail
It could be necessary to take part of the nail off if you are suffering from persistent ingrown toenail. The general procedure for this is as follows:
- Injecting a local anesthetic into the base of the toe, thus the toe becomes numb and painless.
- The nail is then cut with scissors the long way, just a few millimeters from the problem edge.
- A bit of acid is put on the part of the nail bed that is exposed for many times. This will help stop the edge of the nail from regrowing, causing another ingrown toenail.
- Then the nail is dressed.
After the anesthetic wears off, the toe could be sore, so you might have to take mild painkillers like paracetamol for a day or two. The nail will regrow after the operation, but it will be narrower than it used to be.
How Can Ingrown Toenail Be Prevented?
There are several things you can do to aid in preventing an ingrown toenail:
- Cut the nails straight across. Do not curve the nails to be the same shape like the front of your toe. If your nails are done professionally, make sure and tell the pedicurist to cut the nails straight across. if you have poor blood flow to your feet and you can’t trim your nails, go to a podiatrist to get your nails trimmed.
- Keep the nails at a moderate length. Trim the nails so they are even with the tips of the toes. Trimming them too short could cause the pressure from your shoes on the toes to push the nail to grow into the skin.
- Wear properly fitting shoes. Shoes which put too much pressure on the toes or pinch them could cause the nail to grow into the surrounding skin. You might not be able to sense if your shoes are too tight if you have any nerve damage to your feet. Be carefully to buy and wear shoes that are properly fitted from a store which specializes in fitting shoes for people with foot problems, preferably.
- Wear footwear that will protect your feet. If you work somewhere that could put you at risk for injuring your toes, wear footwear that is protective like steel-toed shoes.
- Keep an eye on your feet. Look at your feet each day if you have diabetes to check for any signs of ingrown toenails or other problems with your feet.