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Ingrown Toenails

What are ingrown toenails?

Ingrown toenails happen when the side of your toenail grows into the flesh. Your toe will typically appear red and swollen and be painful to the touch. It’s a common condition that occurs when toenails are trimmed tapered instead of straight across. Although it looks nice, this type of trimming may encourage your toenail to grow into the soft flesh on the side of your toe. And like many other foot-related conditions, ingrown toenails can be the byproduct of improper footwear. 

What causes an ingrown toenail?

Many things can encourage ingrown toenails, including some health issues like diabetes, but these are the most common causes.

• Heredity. Sometimes genetics plays a factor in having repeated ingrown toenails.
Trauma. Such as stubbing your toe, toe injuries, or activities that put repeated pressure on the toes.
Trimming Incorrectly.  Cutting your toenails too short and tapered encourages the skin to grow over the nail.
Wearing the wrong footwear.  Wearing socks or shoes that are too small pushes the toenail into the skin and promoting an ingrown nail.
Nail conditions. Untreated fungal infections or repeated toenail loss
Nail Maintenance: Aggressive pedicures or nail picking can likely cause ingrown toenails. 
Sweaty feet: Feet with constant sweat can cause the nail to be soft and split, leading to an ingrown toenail. 
Foot or toe deformities: People with bunions, hammertoes, and flat feet. 

An ingrown toenail can infect the bone underneath and lead to a severe bone infection when left untreated. This type of infection begins at the nail border and spreads into a deeper soft-tissue infection called cellulitis, ultimately leading to a bone infection. Some common complications are scarring of the skin surrounding the nail borders, thickened fungal toenails, and enlarged soft tissue at the nail fold that easily bleeds. 

How do I care for an ingrown toenail?

These options may help you heal quickly if you have an ingrown toenail. 

1. Castile foot soak:  You can soak your foot up to 3 times a day for 20 minutes in a Castile soap warm water soak. For added relief, add Epsom salt to your soak. 
2. Shoes:  Wear comfortable shoes that give the toe enough room to move. You might consider wearing open-toed shoes while the toe heals.
3. Pain Relievers:  Take an oral over-the-counter anti-inflammatory medication. It will help your swelling diminish while providing some pain relief. 
4. Antibiotic:  If your toe is swollen and painful, you may have an infection requiring an antibiotic. Schedule an exam with your doctor for a prescription. 
5. Nail Removal:  If your podiatrist thinks the problem is severe enough, they might suggest a partial toenail removal to alleviate the pain. Your podiatrist will perform this procedure on an outpatient basis by applying a local anesthetic. The result is a narrower toenail on the affected toe. 

When to seek treatment?

Minor foot problems like ingrown toenails can cause severe complications in people with diabetes, a compromised immune system, or poor circulation.

If at-home remedies aren’t providing relief within a week or so, or if there is persistent pain or signs of infection, you should schedule a podiatric medical examination. 

See your doctor right away if you are experiencing any of the following:
• Swelling
• Redness
• Streaking (redness spreading from the toe to middle of the foot)
• Pain
• Drainage that may be yellow, green, or white and purulent (containing pus)

If you have questions or concerns about an ingrown toenail, contact our office to schedule an examination. 


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