What causes ingrown toenails?
An ingrown toenail occurs when the nail curves downward and starts to grow into the skin. This often makes the nail stab or poke the skin, causing the discomfort. Often the first sign of an ingrown toenail is a painful toe without an obvious cause. But how did it get there?
Ingrown toenails happen for a number of reasons. They may include:
- Cutting the toenails too short, especially around the edges (this is the most common reason)
- An injury to the toenail, such as dropping something on your toe or stubbing your toe
- Putting too much stress on the toes, such as with wearing too-tight shoes, high heels, or running long distances
- Fungal infections in the toenail
- Picking or tearing at the edges of the toenails
- Heredity — some people are born with toenails that have a tendency to turn downward
What to do about it
If you think you have an ingrown toenail, you may be able to treat it at home. Try soaking the foot in warm soapy water daily and gently massaging the area. If you’ve been wearing new shoes, such as high heels for holiday parties, you may have found your culprit.
But if there is any sign of infection, such as redness, warmth, drainage, or a foul odor, you need to see a podiatrist or your physician. In many cases, antibiotics will be needed to clear the infection and your podiatrist can help you avoid getting another ingrown nail in the future. If you have diabetes, circulation problems, or nerve conditions, don’t try to treat it yourself — get medical help to make sure it’s properly addressed.
What not to do
Many people don’t realize that they can do more harm than good if they’re trying to fix the ingrown toenail at home. Whatever you do, DON’T do the following:
- Stick objects like cotton under the nail
- Trim the nail too short again (the problem will likely come back)
- Ignore it and just take a pain reliever
- Wear improperly fitting shoes or high heels before it’s healed
Most ingrown toenails, although painful, can be corrected quickly by a qualified podiatrist. If yours won’t clear up with some gentle treatment and foot soaks at home, it’s time to get some professional care. Many procedures are available that can permanently address ingrown toenails if they become a chronic issue.
Do you have toe pain, redness, or other issues? Call Kansas City Foot Specialists to schedule an evaluation at (913) 338-4440, or request an appointment online so we can work with you to keep your feet healthy.