An ingrown toenail is a common condition for both men and women. This happens when the corner or the side of one of your nails grows in the soft flesh of this toe. It usually affects one of your big toes and if it is not taken care of properly can lead to pain, redness, swelling and sometimes infections. This usually happens when the nail breaks the skin and the bacteria enter and cause an infection. Sometimes the skin can begin to grow on the ingrown part of the nail.
Many people with ingrown toenails take care of the disease by themselves. Hot baths and a good nail fit may be necessary, but it is sometimes best to consult a foot specialist when you feel pain and pressure. If the pain is severe or spreading, a podiatrist can usually relieve your discomfort and help you avoid more complications from an ingrown toenail.
If you have diabetes or other conditions that cause poor blood circulation, talk to your doctor directly instead of risking complications.
The signs and symptoms of an ingrown toenail include:
- Pain and sensitivity to the toe along one or both sides of the nail.
- Redness around your toenail.
- Swelling of the toe around the nail.
- Infection of the tissue around your toenail.
There are many reasons why ingrown toenails develop, some of which are congenital. For example, your nails may be too big. People whose nails bent under are also prone to the condition. Scratching a toe or having a toe walk or other trauma can cause some of the nail to jam in the skin.
High heels are also a problem because the heel transfers most of your weight to the front of the foot. This puts more pressure on the big toe and often deforms them over the years. This can also lead to ingrown toenails.
However, the most common cause is the incorrect cutting of your nails, which makes them grow back into the skin. Tight tights or narrow toe shoes make the situation worse.
What you can do for an ingrown toenail
Without treatment or undetected, an ingrown toenail can infect the underlying bone and cause a serious infection. If your symptoms are minor, as the toe is red and not very painful, and you do not have a complicated condition like diabetes, you can take a few simple steps at home to treat your ingrown toenail.
- Soak the foot in lukewarm water 2 or 3 times a day for 15 minutes. I always add Epsom salts, but I am told that there is no scientific proof that can cure anything or help relieve the pain.
- Massage the skin on the side of the nail by gently pushing it away from the nail.
- Some suggest placing cotton under the nail after soaking to help the nail grow over the edge of the skin. Some doctors say it's too risky because it traps bacteria.
- However, apply a topical antibiotic such as Neosporin or Polysporin or Bacitracin. Cover the area with a bandage.
Prevention of ingrown toenails
- Wear sandals or other low-heeled open toe shoes whenever possible. Wear low-heeled shoes that have enough space on the toes. If you wear stockings, wear moisture-proof socks so that your toes move freely.
- Keep your feet clean and dry.
- Use a nail trimmer (not a nail trimmer).
- Cut your nails across, following the curve. Do not round corners and do not cut nails too short.
If your toenail is infected, it's time to see a doctor like a podiatrist (foot care specialist) or a dermatologist. You may need to take oral antibiotics for an infection and the doctor may need to remove the ingrown part of your fingernail.