How to Prevent Ingrown Toenails
While an ingrown toenail might happen to some people more than others due to hereditary factors, the fact is that an ingrown toenail can happen to anyone. Simply put, an ingrown toenail occurs when a nail grows into the flesh rather than over it, occurring most often in the big toe. The nail will irritate the skin, causing pain and even infection should it break into the skin. (An infected ingrown toenail will be red, swollen, hot, and painful). Ingrown toenails can become very painful conditions, but only because patients are often unaware of what the condition is and how it occurs.
Causes of Ingrown Toenails
A number of factors might cause an ingrown toenail:
- Wearing shoes that are too small. This is most common among teenagers.
- Hereditary traits like thick or curved nails will make a person more prone to ingrown toenails.
- Socks that are too short or tight will force the toes toward each other and encourage the nails to grow into the skin.
- Athletic people are also more prone to ingrown toenails. Excessive sweating makes the skin and nails softer and easier to split. Those split nails can easily puncture the skin.
- Trauma – such as stubbing, jamming, or dropping something on a toe – can contribute to the development of ingrown toenails.
- Active people who participate in activities like running, soccer, or ballet will need to be pay special attention to the signs of an ingrown nail.
- A common cause of ingrown toenails, improper nail trimming will encourage the skin to fold over the nail.
How to Treat an Ingrown Toenail
If caught in its early stages, an ingrown toenail may be prevented or even cured by taking the following steps:
- Soak the affected toe in water for 10 minutes. This will soften the folds of skin around the nail.
- Using a Q-tip, push the skin fold over the ingrown nail down and away from the nail. Start at the root of the nail, then move toward the end of the nail.
- Repeat every day for a few weeks and allow the nail to grow.
- Once the nail has grown forward far enough, place a tiny piece of cotton wool or dental floss under it. This will prevent the nail from growing into the skin. Change the wool or floss every day after soaking the foot.
- Continue to let the nail grow forward until it is over the end of the toe. Cut the nail straight across – not rounded off at the ends.
Generally, persistent and troublesome symptoms should be brought to a doctor’s attention. The situation becomes urgent if the patient has diabetes or a poor immune system, since the infections must be treated immediately.
Patients with diabetic neuropathy, peripheral arterial disease, or those who have otherwise lost the nerves or feeling in their feet should see a doctor ASAP.
Additionally, patients that take are on chemotherapy or any immunosuppressant medications must see a doctor immediately.
These conditions make it difficult to sense problems like deep infections, requiring monitoring and assessment from a podiatrist.
Preventing Ingrown Toenails
- Cut nails straight across, being especially careful not to cut too short or low at the sides. The corners of the nails should be visible above the skin. Cutting nails after a shower is easiest, since the nails are softer.
- People who see a pedicurist should ensure that they are trimming straight across.
- Patients with poor blood flow may not be able to trim their nails on their own, and should therefore see a podiatrist regularly for trimming.
- Toenails should be kept even with the tips of the toes. Trim too short, and pressure from shoes might lead the nail into the tissue.
- Wear shoes that fit properly. People with nerve problems or chronic ingrown toenails may need to visit a shoe store that specializes in people with foot problems.
- Wear protective footwear, especially in a warehouse or other environment where foot injuries are common.
Keep feet clean and dry, and air them out as much as possible.
- Avoid tight shoes. Use cotton socks and not synthetic.
- Diabetics must take extra care when cutting nails, and pay special attention for the symptoms of ingrown toenails.
- Cut the nails straight across, following the shape of the toe. Do not cut too low at the sides.
- Gently file away sharp edges.
- See a podiatrist for nail trimming if loss of feeling in the feet occurs.
- Patients with poor vision should see a chiropodist to trim their nails.
For more information about feet and nails, or to schedule an appointment, please visit Dr. Vikki.