Simple Tips to Treat and Prevent Ingrown ToenailsJune 5, 2015
Ingrown toenails, or Onychocryptosis if you want a tongue twister, affect over three million people in the US every year. An ingrown toenail is a condition in which the nail grows into the soft flesh of a toe.
Ingrown toenails are usually pretty easy to diagnose at home. If you have pain or redness at the corner of your toe you can simply look at the toe and see if your nail is growing the right way or if it’s turned into your skin. Other symptoms include tenderness, swelling, or an infection.
Ingrown toenails could be caused by a variety of things.
- Shoes that crowd your toes will put pressure on the nail and push it to grow downward into the flesh.
- If your toenails are not cut straight across, cut too short, or cut unevenly, the nail could grow improperly.
- Injuries to your toes such as trauma from things falling on them or repeated force from actions like kicking a soccer ball can also cause the nail to grow wrong.
- Some disorders –like fungal infections- that cause nails to thicken are also a factor.
- Even your genetics could be working against you here; some people have nails that are more curved or toe bones that are more upturned, both of which can increase your risk of ingrown toenails.
If you have an ingrown toenail there are a few things you can do to treat it.
- A warm soak for 15-20 minutes three or four times a day can soften the tissue, provide some relief, and make other treatments easier.
- Open toe shoes or sandals will keep additional pressure off of your toes.
- Over the counter pain relievers such as acetaminophen (ex: Tylenol), ibuprofen (ex: Advil), or naproxen salts (ex: Aleve) can reduce your discomfort.
- If infection has set in your doctor can prescribe antibiotics in either oral or topical forms. If you are prescribed a topical antibiotic cream you will need to apply it directly to the infected area and then wrap it to keep the cream from being rubbed off. In either case make sure to take the full prescribed course. Just because the injury may look better that doesn’t mean the infection is completely gone.
- Lifting the nail and placing a small piece of cotton, splint or dental floss underneath it can help to guide the toenail to grow above the skin. Soak your foot and replace the splint daily.
- If the nail has gotten infected removing the offending portion of nail will be necessary in order to keep the wound clean and prevent further injury.
- If an ingrown nail is a reoccurring problem in a specific area your doctor may recommend that a portion of the nail and nail bed be removed. This will prevent the nail from growing there in the future.
When to see your doctor-
- If you are experiencing severe discomfort, have pus, swelling, or notice redness that is spreading.
- If you have diabetes or another condition that restricts blood flow to your feet you could be at greater risk for complications.
Of course the best treatment is prevention! Here are some ways to prevent another ingrown nail.
- Trim your nails straight across, don’t try to follow the curve of your toe.
- Keep your toenail length moderate. Nails should be even with the tip of your toe.
- Wear shoes that fit properly. Make sure you’re wearing the right size and have plenty of room in the toe box.
- Where protective footwear at work, especially if your job has an added risk of things falling on your feet.
- If you’re diabetic make sure to check your feet and toenails every day.