What Is an Ingrown Toenail?
When a toenail is ingrown, it is curved and grows into the skin, usually at the nail borders (the sides of the nail). This “digging in” of the nail irritates the skin, often creating pain, redness, swelling, drainage and warmth in the toe.
If an ingrown nail causes a break in the skin, bacteria may enter and cause an infection in the area, which is often marked by drainage and a foul odor. However, even if the toe isn’t painful, red, swollen, or warm, a nail that curves downward into the skin can progress to an infection.
What Causes an Ingrown Toenail?
- Heredity. In many people, the tendency for ingrown toenails is inherited.
- Trauma. Sometimes an ingrown toenail is the result of trauma, such as stubbing your toe, having an object fall on your toe, or engaging in activities that involve repeated pressure on the toes, such as kicking or running.
- Improper trimming. The most common cause of ingrown toenails is cutting your nails too short or rounding them. This encourages the skin next to the nail to fold over the nail.
- Improperly sized footwear. Ingrown toenails can result from wearing socks and shoes that are tight or short.
- Nail Conditions. Ingrown toenails can be caused by nail problems, such as fungal infections or losing a nail due to trauma.
What You Should Know About Home Treatment
- Don’t cut a notch in the nail. Contrary to what some people believe, this does not reduce the tendency for the nail to curve downward.
- Don’t repeatedly trim nail borders. Repeated trimming does not change the way the nail grows, and can make the condition worse.
- Don’t place cotton under the nail. Not only does this not relieve the pain, it provides a place for harmful bacteria to grow, resulting in infection.
- Over-the-counter medications are ineffective. Topical medications may mask the pain, but they don’t correct the underlying problem.
Sometimes a minor surgical procedure, often performed in the office, will ease the pain and remove the offending nail. After applying a local anesthetic, the doctor removes part of the nail’s side border. Some nails may become ingrown again, requiring removal of the nail root or removal of the entire nail.
Home care Treatment:
If you don’t have an infection or any of the above medical conditions, you can soak your foot in room-temperature water (adding Epsom’s salt may be recommended by your doctor), and gently massage the side of the nail fold to help reduce the inflammation.
Avoid attempting “bathroom surgery.” Repeated cutting of the nail can cause the condition to worsen over time. If your symptoms fail to improve, it’s time to see your foot and ankle surgeon. Call now or request your appointment online!
Cornerstone Foot & Ankle is a full service foot and ankle specialty office with locations in Sewell, Cherry Hill, Marlton, Mt. Holly, Woodbury, and Glassboro; serving the South Jersey region. We offer a full suite of services including surgery, fracture care, fungal nail care, diabetic foot care, pediatric podiatry, custom braces and orthotics, wound care, limb salvage, and treatments for arch pain, heel pain, and sports injuries; just to name a few. If it hurts below your knee, we can help you! CALL NOW or request your appointment online TODAY!