Ingrown toenails are very common and occur when the skin surrounding a toenail becomes irritated or swollen due to the growth of the toenail into the skin. The toenail becomes curved in shape and therefore grows downward into the toe area surrounding the nail.
If the nail actually breaks through the skin, it can cause infection by allowing bacteria into the open wound. If a toe is infected, it will become swollen and very painful, sometimes even emitting a strong odor. In cases where a toe is not yet infected and the patient is only experiencing slight discomfort, if left untreated, the continued growth of the nail into the toe can ultimately lead to an infection.
Causes of ingrown toenails include:
- Predisposition to ingrown toenails may be inherited
- Ingrown toenails may be a result of some type of trauma, such as a heavy object falling on your foot
- Cutting toenails too short
- Footwear that is too tight to fit properly
- Fungal infections and related nail problems
It is strongly recommended you always consult your podiatrist with any foot problems. What may seem like a minor problem at the time, can often turn into a much larger issue if not treated properly. Additionally, patients who may be dealing with diabetes or other serious medical conditions put themselves at a high risk of recurring complications by self-treating conditions.
However, if you do not have an infection or any other medical problems, you can try soaking your feet in slightly warm water with Epsom’s salt while massaging the side area of the nail. Avoid cutting the nail, as this can make the problem worse.
After a careful examination, your podiatrist will prescribe a method of treatment. If there is an infection present, the treatment will often include an antibiotic. If the problem is in an advanced stage, the podiatrist may perform a simple surgical procedure that eases the pain and removes the infected nail.
Even after the simple surgery, most patients feel immediate relief and can return to normal activities immediately. However, even if you feel better, it is important to take all of the prescribed medication to ensure the infection is completely cured.
There are some simple things you can do to prevent ingrown toenails from occurring, or at least occurring as often.
Preventing Ingrown Toenails:
- Cut nails in a straight line and remember not to cut them extremely short
- Wear proper fitting shoes that are not too tight or too loose
- Wear comfortable socks
Even small infections can have serious consequences if not properly treated. If you are dealing with diabetes or other medical issues, be sure to contact your podiatrist immediately if you think you might have an ingrown toenail. Early detection of possible infections and proper treatment will make dealing with the issue and finding a cure much easier than if you wait for the condition to become unmanageable.