What are ingrown toenails?
Ingrown toenails can be a nasty condition causing intense pain, irritation, swelling and even infection. Luckily, this condition can be avoided by taking measures to properly care for your toenails. However, understanding what causes ingrown toenails and how your doctor can treat them can help you keep your toenails healthy and free from injury.
Ingrown Toenail Causes
Ingrown toenails occur when the side of the nail begins to curl in as it grows, causing it to dig into the skin on the side of the toe. This can cause the skin to break, which can lead to serious pain, discomfort and infection. The most common cause of ingrown toenails is failing to cut the toenail properly. However, foot deformities like bunions, wearing improperly fitting or too-tight shoes, trauma to the toe, obesity, diabetes and arthritis can also contribute to ingrown toenail development.
Treating Ingrown Toenails
If your ingrown toenail becomes infected, your doctor will need to take measures to clear up your infection before treating the ingrown toenail itself. Your doctor may suggest soaking the foot daily to help with swelling and discomfort. Over-the-counter medications can also help relieve pain and swelling. You may be able to roll the skin back to access the toenail where it has grown inward. If this is possible, you can slip a small piece of floss or cotton underneath. Severe cases will require that your doctor use a surgical procedure to remove part or all of your toenail.
Preventing Ingrown Toenails
Preventing an ingrown toenail begins with taking proper care of your toenails and feet. When you trim your nails, cut them straight across. Do not cut the sides of the nail down lower than the middle area to create a rounded shape. Be sure to wear the proper shoes for any physical activities in which you participate. Keep your feet clean and dry and be sure to change your socks every day and after taking part in activities which cause perspiration. Additionally, avoid wearing ill-fitting shoes like high heels or shoes which are very tight or narrow.