What is an Ingrown Toenail?
An ingrown nail occurs when the toenail pierces the skin of the toe; the nail then continues to grow into the skin, causing the toe to become swollen and red. There is also often a build-up of fluid in the toe which can come out like pus. Usually, an ingrown toenail will just be tender and a little irritating, but if left to develop it can become very painful and debilitating.
What Causes Ingrown Toenails?
Several factors can cause a toenail to start growing inwards; the most common one being ill-fitting shoes or socks. If the footwear is too tight then it can squish the toes together and put pressure on them. The shoes can also press the nails inwards, causing them to pierce the skin and grow into it.
Another cause of ingrown toenails is cutting the nails incorrectly; if the nails are trimmed too short or if the edges are cut then the skin can grow over the nails. Bad cutting also encourages the nail to grow the wrong way, into the skin.
Bad foot hygiene is another factor that can increase the chance of developing an ingrown toenail. If you have poor foot hygiene or have sweaty feet that aren’t washed often, then this can cause the skin of the toes to become softer and therefore easier for the toenail to pierce.
Also, if you have injured your toenail, such as stubbed it or dropped something on it, then there is an increased chance of developing an ingrown toenail as the nail can grow into the damaged skin.
How to Prevent Ingrown Toenails
If you haven’t yet got an ingrown toenail and want to keep it that way then there are several things you can do to reduce the risk of developing one.
The top of this list is good foot hygiene. To prevent your feet from getting too sweaty and soft, wash them every day and dry them thoroughly. Apply appvalley foot cream to keep them moisturized and to strengthen the skin.
Ensure your footwear is the right size for you as ill-fitting footwear is a common cause of ingrown toenails. It is a good idea to get your feet measured properly to ensure that you get shoes that fit and that won’t put pressure on your toes.
Cutting your toenails correctly is also another great way of preventing an ingrown toenail. Toenails should always be cut straight across and not too short.
Ingrown Toenail Treatments
If you have developed an ingrown toenail then don’t worry as there are many effective treatments. If it is only a mild ingrown toenail then they can often be treated at home using some of the preventative methods above. For example, washing your feet regularly will keep the feet hygienic and limit the risk of the ingrown toenail getting worse or becoming infected. Similarly, trimming the toenail properly will help it grow in the right direction and away from the skin. Also, ensure you wear shoes that fit correctly and that do not put any extra pressure on the toes.
Another home remedy for an ingrown toenail is to gently push the skin around the nail away using a cotton bud. Lubricating it with a small amount of olive oil often helps.
If your ingrown toenail is painful then over-the-counter painkillers like paracetamol can help you manage it.
If the home remedies do not help and the nail becomes worse or more painful then you may need surgery to correct the nail. During ingrown toenail surgery either a part of your nail is removed or the whole nail. The last option is the last resort and usually, doctors recommend partial nail avulsion where one or both edges of the nail are removed. A chemical called phenol is applied during the procedure to prevent the nail from growing back. This is done under local anesthetic.
Total nail avulsion involves removing the whole toenail to prevent an ingrown toenail reoccurring. This is most often done with people who are prone to ingrown toenails. Though it may look strange, not having a toenail will still allow you to walk normally.