Even one ingrown toenail is a painful experience that you probably wouldn’t care to repeat. So if you’re working on your second or third (or more) by now, you’d probably like to know if there’s anything you can do to stop them from coming back.
On that topic, we’ve got good news.
Ingrown toenails can be prevented, in almost every case. Permanently, if need be.
But there’s a catch: the best way to prevent future ingrown toenails will depend on the factors that are causing them in the first place. And that can vary from person to person.
Let’s start with some of the things you can do at home, and then move on to a clinical solution.
Home Strategies to Prevent Ingrown Toenails
Ingrown toenails can be caused by environmental factors, as well as genetic ones. If you keep getting ingrown toenails because of what you do, then the best way to prevent them is to stop doing those things!
Here’s your game plan:
Trim your toenails the right way.
You might be surprised to learn there’s a wrong way to cut toenails, but this is one of the most common causes of ingrown toenails—and you may not even realize you’re doing it.
Nails should be cut relatively straight across, without significant rounding at the corners. And while you should keep your nails short, you don’t want to cut them too short, either. Try to keep 1-2 millimeters of “overhang” (roughly 1/16 of an inch), then trim about once every 1-2 months (depending on how quickly your nails grow) to keep it at a consistent length.
Making either mistake—too short or too rounded—provides a greater opportunity for the nail edge to snag and dig into the surrounding flesh as it grows out.
We also recommend you have a set of heavy-duty toenail clippers, which are wider, bigger, provide a straighter cut, and give you more leverage to deal with the extra thickness of toenails (as opposed to fingernails).
The best time to trim is when your nails are dry, as they are less likely to tear.
Avoid ill-fitting footwear.
A lot of fashionable shoes have very cramped, or even pointed, toe boxes. Wearing them, unfortunately, is a bad idea. Tight shoes can push down on toenails, slowly diverting them off course and into the surrounding skin as they grow. High heels can make the problem even worse, as they can push your toes all the way to the front of the shoe.
You aren’t out of the clear if your shoes are too loose, either. These can slide around on the foot, causing your toenails to knock into the front of the shoe repeatedly—especially if you are physically active.
For daily wear, stick to comfortable shoes that offer good support, feel firm (but not tight) around the heels and balls of the feet, and leave plenty of wiggle room for toes—up, down, and side-to-side. There should be about half an inch of space between the longest toe and the front of the shoe.
Protect your toes from injury.
Another common cause of ingrown toenails is accidental trauma, such as stubbing your toe or dropping something heavy on your foot.
While you may not be able to reduce your risk of a freak accident all the way to 0 percent, you can at least take sensible, reasonable precautions if you’re going to be participating in activities that put your feet more at risk.
For example, if you work in a construction zone or other potentially dangerous area, steel-toed boots would be a good call. Or if you’re planning to go for a run, make sure you have a good-fitting pair of running shoes; and also check your toenails beforehand to make sure they’re neatly trimmed.
A More Permanent Solution
The above strategies may work well if your ingrown toenails happened to be caused by tight shoes or improper toenail trimming. But what if the main problem is the toenail itself?
Unfortunately, some people are born naturally predisposed to getting ingrown toenails, or suffer an injury that alters a nail’s shape. In this case, you may continue to get ingrown toenails again and again, no matter what you do.
Fortunately, we have a solution for this, too. If you’d like to be rid of your ingrown toenails for good, we can actually remove or cauterize a small part (or, if absolutely necessary, a large part) of the underlying nail matrix, which is responsible for nail growth.
Once this procedure is performed, the portion of the nail associated with that part of the matrix cannot grow back. Your toenail will be thinner than it was before, but the part of the nail that was causing problems will be gone—and so will your ingrown toenails.
Although this sounds like an extreme procedure, it’s actually pretty simple and can be done quickly, under local anesthesia, right at the same time we treat the ingrown toenail itself. Even young kids tend to tolerate this procedure very well, and the long-term relief you feel afterward is invaluable.
Make This Ingrown Toenail Your Last One Ever
There’s no need to suffer again and again from ingrown toenails. If you’re having trouble preventing them from occurring, give us a call. We can help you figure out what’s causing them, evaluate your options, and then get you the relief you deserve.