Are you experiencing redness, swelling, or tenderness of the skin along the sides of a toenail? An ingrown toenail may be to blame. The condition occurs when a curved nail grows into the surrounding flesh, rather than over it. This can cause an array of uncomfortable symptoms and increase your risk of infection and other complications.
Fortunately, prompt treatment of ingrown toenails, routine podiatry care, and simple lifestyle changes can help you get back on your feet. Here's what you should know about ingrown toenails, including how Grandville Foot and Ankle's skilled podiatrist, Dr. Sarah Stewart, can help you improve your nail and skin health.
Ingrown Toenail Causes and Risk Factors
Cutting toenails too short or rounding the corners instead of cutting them straight across are some of the most common causes of ingrown nails. Other causes and risk factors for this condition include:
- Wearing the wrong footwear. Shoes that are too short or too narrow in the toe box can leave your toes feeling crowded, causing pressure that can lead to an ingrown toenail.
- Sustaining an injury. Stubbing or jamming your toe, or dropping something heavy on your foot, can drive an affected toenail into the skin of the nail bed, resulting in an ingrown nail or infection. Playing sports or participating in activities that stress the feet—such as running, soccer, or ballet—can cause similar trauma.
- Your genes. A family history of ingrown toenails can make you more prone to developing the condition yourself.
- Your foot shape. Certain foot features—such as having nails that are too large for your toes—can make you more likely to suffer from ingrown toenails.
- Other podiatric nail conditions. A fungal toenail infection can also increase your risk of ingrown nails.
The symptoms associated with ingrown nails tend to present in stages. At first, you may notice swelling, tenderness, or hardness at the site where the nail digs into the skin. However, as the condition persists, it can become more painful, and make walking or even wearing shoes difficult.
If the ingrown nail breaks the skin, it can invite bacteria that can lead to an infection. See a podiatrist right away if your pain is serious; you notice redness, bleeding, or drainage at the site; the affected area feels warm; or you suddenly become hot or shivery.
Special Concerns for Diabetics
Spotting signs of an infection as soon as possible is particularly vital for diabetics, who may suffer from decreased blood flow to their feet, which can make injuries and infections take longer to heal. In extreme cases, this may lead to open sores, gangrene, or even amputation. Controlling the disease—as well as daily self-exams, careful home foot care practices, and regular podiatry care—can help you avoid these and other severe complications.
Ingrown Toenail Prevention and Home Remedies
Wearing shoes and socks that fit properly, and taking care to trim nails straight across, are easy and effective ways to prevent painful ingrown toenails. If a nail does start to grow into the skin, home remedies may be able to prevent the condition from progressing.
- Soak in warm Epsom salt water twice daily for 15 minutes and massage the nail fold away from the nail plate.
- Keep the foot clean and dry the rest of the time.
- Wear shoes that provide toes with plenty of room or opt for sandals until the condition resolves.
- Take over-the-counter ibuprofen or acetaminophen according to package directions for pain relief.
- Consult a podiatrist if the condition worsens or doesn't improve within a couple of days.
Schedule an Appointment
When home remedies fail, Grandville Foot and Ankle offers a variety of professional treatments to provide relief. Treatment options available at our podiatric practice include antibiotics, prescription creams, lifting the nail, or removing part or all of the affected toenail.
We also provide a wide range of routine podiatry care—including toenail trimming—that may help you avoid ingrown toenails or prevent a recurrence.
Complete our contact form or call our office at 616-534-3920 to schedule an appointment with Dr. Stewart.