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Put Your Best Foot Forward: Learning How To Treat & Prevent Ingrown Toenails

Many people experience this pesky toenail problem on a daily basis. Learn what causes ingrown toenails and how you can prevent them from developing in the first place.

Ingrown toenails are more than just an everyday nuisance, and if you try to ignore them, the worse they will become. Leaving your ingrown toenails untreated will lead to a lot of pain that can disrupt your daily life. And while this pain may have you feeling like you’re at a standstill in life, ingrown toenails are a lot more common than you may think and help is not far from reach. In fact, it’s reported that 20 out of 100 people who see their family doctor because of foot problems have an ingrown toenail.

What Causes Ingrown Toenails?

Ingrown toenails are when the side of the nail digs into the skin of the toe. When this happens, it can become seriously painful and irritating. Most often, it is the big toe that develops the ingrown toenail, but it can happen to any toe on your foot. In order to know how to effectively prevent ingrown toenails, it’s important to know what causes them in the first place. Here are some common causes:

  • Your genetics. It’s common for people to inherit a gene that causes them to be more likely to develop ingrown toenails.

  • Improper nail trimming. If you are cutting your nails too short, it can cause the skin at the sides of the nail to fold over. Be sure you are cutting straight across too. The deeper you cut towards the nail bed or to your heel, the better the chances are that the skin will grow over that nail, causing it to dig into the skin. This leads to pain. Pro Tip: DON’T DO THIS: Many people simply cut the nail deeper, to alleviate the pain, which works for a bit, but then it grows deeper. That’s when you really need help.

  • Tight-fitting footgear. Wearing shoes or socks that press your nail into the toe can cause an ingrown toenail to develop.

  • Trauma. If you stub or jam your toe, the trauma can cause an ingrown toenail to develop.

  • Repeated Stress. Ingrown toenails can develop if you are putting daily stress on your toes through activities like ballet, running, soccer, or even through poor-standing posture.

Preventing Ingrown Toenails

So now that you know what causes ingrown toenails, you probably have a good idea of how you can prevent them. Preventing ingrown toenails is as simple as practicing good foot care on a daily basis. You need healthy feet to get through your everyday life, so caring for them properly should be a priority. One way to do this is to make sure you are wearing comfortable shoes or socks that provide enough room for your toes and allow them to move around freely.

Another easy way to prevent ingrown toenails is to cut your toenails properly. You should be doing this by cutting the nail straight across. It’s important to avoid rounding off the corners of the nail, which is a common cause of ingrown toenails. Make sure you use a sharp toenail trimmer and remember to not cut them too short. Finally, another way to prevent ingrown toenails is to monitor your daily activities. If you are engaging in activities that put more stress on your feet such as ballet or running, try to go barefoot afterward to let your feet breathe.

Treating Ingrown Toenails

If you have already developed an ingrown toenail, then keep reading because we are here to help! There are a couple of ways to treat an ingrown toenail at home before it gets worse. For one, try soaking the foot in warm water for about 20 minutes, three to four times a day. Use Epsom salt while soaking your foot as well, this will help reduce inflammation. Another way to continue treating your ingrown toenail is to wear open-toed shoes. If you notice your feet are sweaty, make sure you are wiping them dry and clean, especially between the toes.

If you think your toenail might be infected or you just cannot handle the pain, then it’s time to visit us so we can help. You’ll notice your toenail is infected if it is swelling, hot to touch, oozing, or has a foul odor. This can all feel frustrating and painful, but we at Gulf South Foot & Ankle will save the day. We can prescribe an antibiotic that can be topical or oral and will help get rid of the infection. Another way we will treat the infected toenail is to remove the infected area.

Removal of an ingrown toenail is a very common procedure performed by our podiatrists. Recovery time from this procedure is minimal. In most cases, the patient is able to return to wearing their regular shoes within one day of the procedure. If you think that you may have an infected ingrown toenail, please contact us at Gulf South Foot and Ankle.

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