What is an Ingrown Toenail?
Ingrown toenails occur most often on the big toe, though it can happen to any of them. An ingrown toenail is a toenail that is curved down and grows into the skin- usually at the sides of the nail- instead of over it. This can cause pain, redness, swelling and a warmth to the toe.
Should the ingrown nail go untreated and cause a break in the skin, it is possible for bacteria to get in, and an infection to occur. Ingrown nail infections are often marked by a foul odor and a drainage of pus.
Anyone can get an ingrown toenail. However, they are more common in adults than they are in children. People with thick or curved nails are more prone to developing an ingrown toenail.
What Causes an Ingrown Toenail?
There are a few things that could cause someone to have an ingrown toenail including:
- Improper nail trimming. The most common cause of ingrown toenails would probably be cutting them too short. When they are too short the skin next to the nail is more likely to fold over the nail.
- Poor fitting footwear. Shoes and socks that are too tight or short pushes on the nail and can cause it to dig into the surrounding skin.
- For some people, the tendency to develop ingrown toenails is inherited.
- Nail trauma. Sometimes an ingrown toenail develops after an injury to the toe. Potential ingrown nail causing injuries include a stubbed toe and heavy objects falling on the toe. Partaking in activities that involve repeated pressure on the toes, such as kicking a soccer ball or running, can also result in an ingrown toenail.
- Nail problems. Various nail afflictions, like fungal infections or losing a nail from trauma, can cause the nail to become ingrown.
Ingrown Toenail Treatment
Some people can successfully treat an ingrown toenail at home. However, we strongly discourage in home care if there is a suspected infection, or for people who have medical conditions such as diabetes, nerve damage of the foot, or poor circulation.
Patients without the above conditions can try soaking their foot in room-temperature water with Epsom’s salt and gently rub the side of the nail fold to help reduce inflammation.
If you choose to care for your ingrown nail at home, there are a few “treatments” that should be avoided. You should not cut a notch in the nail. It does not reduce the tendency for the nail to curve. You should also avoid trimming the nail borders repeatedly. This does not change how the nail grows and can, in fact, worsen the condition. Finally, don’t place cotton under the nail. It does little to relieve pain and provides the perfect place for bacteria to grow, which could lead to an infection. You should also be aware that topical, over-the-counter medications may mask the pain, but they do not resolve the problem.
If home care is not working, or you develop an infection it is time to seek help from one of the friendly foot doctors at Rocky Mountain Foot & Ankle.
We will examine the toe and select the treatment that is best suited for your needs. If you have an infection, it is likely that an oral antibiotic will be prescribed.
For some patients, we will perform a minor surgical procedure in the office that will ease the pain and remove the offending nail. Following the procedure, a light bandage will be applied. Most patients can return to their normal activity the next day. If you are prescribed an antibiotic, use it as directed and take all the medication, even if your symptoms have improved.
When you have foot or ankle problems – you don’t want just anyone. Call on the friendly experienced foot doctors at Rocky Mountain Foot & Ankle. We specialize in treating foot and ankle pain or injuries of all varieties.
Call (208) 855-5955 or request an appointment online.