While ingrown toenails may seem like small nuisances, if they are left untreated, they can lead to much larger problems. Occurring when a segment of a toenail embeds itself in the skin around the nail, ingrown toenails are characterized by swelling, a feeling of warmth, tender or red skin where the toenail has dug in and pain that can be more than annoying. If the nail digs far enough into the flesh to break the skin, an infection can also result.
Some people are simply more prone to ingrown nails than others due to somewhat convex toes. Athletes who wear tight shoes or put a lot of pressure on their toes tend to be more susceptible as well. However, anyone can develop one. Sometimes all it takes is improper trimming technique or stubbing your toe.
If you have already developed an ingrown toenail, do not try to ignore it. This will only lead to more pain while running, changing direction or jumping, which is bad news for athletes. If it is a minor ingrown toenail, it can most likely be treated at home if you’re in good health and no infection is present.
To treat, first soak your foot to soften the skin around the ingrown toenail. Then massage the affected area to loosen the troublesome part of the nail. Some over-the-counter products, like tea tree oil or menthol, can aid in this process, helping to soften the skin and sooth the swelling.
You can also use cotton to help the toenail grown out over the skin folds at its side. By gently inserting a wisp of sterile cotton beneath the burrowing edge of the nail after soaking, you can help the nail grow past the sore skin. To guard against infection, apply an antiseptic over the cotton.
If the ingrown toenail persists after five days, is extremely painful or infected, physician care is necessary. Antibiotics may be prescribed to fight infection, and if the nail is deeply embedded, outpatient surgery may be required.
If you are prone to ingrown toenails, the best way to treat them is to prevent them. Be sure to exercise proper trimming techniques by never cutting your nails too short or in an oval shape, which can cause the leading edge to curve down into the skin at the sides. Instead, cut them straight across with a substantial straight-edge clipper.
Additionally, be sure to buy the right shoes. Make sure yours are not too tight, especially around the toes. This rule applies to both casual and athletic footwear. Also try to shop in the afternoon when your feet are the largest and look for wide-toed or open-toed shoes when you can.
For more information about prevention and treatment, call our office today!