Toenails seem to be an unnecessary body part in our modern age. Once upon a time, they were likely an important protective feature, but they don’t actually offer much in that regard anymore. They can, however, still cause problems, such as when they become ingrown. Understanding the causes of ingrown nails can help you avoid the condition.
Recognizing Ingrown Toenails
The main symptom that will clue you in to the problem is tenderness or pain along one or both edges of the affected nail. This may be accompanied by redness, swelling, and sometimes even an infection. It is important to schedule an appointment with our office if you have severe pain, redness that spreads, or pus in the area, or if you have diabetes.
Why Nails Become Ingrown
When we look at causes of ingrown toenails, the good news is that several of them are preventable if you are aware of them, including nail clipping procedures, shoe fit, and physical trauma.
Too often, we see patients come in with nails that were trimmed too short or were rounded off, and now their toe is red and sore. We often learn, too, that they are wearing shoes that do not fit properly. Footwear that is too tight, including high heels and running shoes, squash the toes together in the front and push the nail into your skin. Then there are the cases where they may have dropped something heavy on their foot. That is not only painful and risks a broken bone, but also may damage the nail and cause it to grow into the soft flesh at the edges.
You have some control over your hygiene habits and shoe choice, but not all of the causes are so easily controlled. Sometimes an unusually-curved nail structure that you inherited will lead to this condition. Additionally, most people do not set out to drop something heavy on their foot—accidents simply happen.
Treatment Options for Ingrown Nails
Regardless as to why an ingrown toenail has developed, it will need to be treated, since the condition does not correct itself naturally. For many cases, home treatment works rather well. This is done by:
- Soaking the affected toe for 15 to 20 minutes in warm water to reduce tenderness and swelling.
- Gently lifting the ingrown edge and placing a bit of waxed dental floss under it.
- Applying antibiotic ointment or cream to reduce the risk of infection and then covering with a bandage.
- Wearing sandals or open-toed shoes until the condition improves.
Over-the-counter pain relievers can make you feel better, but be sure to check with our office for type and dosage recommendations.
In the case of severe or recurring ingrown toenails, you may need professional care. Our office can help by either lifting, partially removing, or completely removing an affected nail. Complete removal is often necessary for nails that continually become ingrown.
Ingrown Toenail Prevention
Because the condition can cause pain, present the risk of infection, and potentially result in the permanent removal of a toenail, it is better to take the appropriate steps to prevent ingrown nails from developing in the first place. Here are some best practices for doing this:
- Protect your feet. If your job requires frequently lifting and moving heavy items, invest in a pair of steel-toed work boots or other protective footwear. At home, if you are moving something heavy, be sure to enlist the help of a loved one or friend.
- Trim your nails correctly. When clipping your nails, keep them straight and even with the edge of the toe.
- Wear shoes that fit. Shoes need to have room in the front for your toes to wiggle freely. If your toes are compressed, find a different pair.
Professional Care for Ingrown Toenails in OKC
In some situations, a case of ingrown toenails cannot be managed at home or is the sources of severe pain and discomfort. When this happens, you need the professional care that we offer here at Foot & Ankle Center of Oklahoma. Contact us today for more information by calling (405) 418-2676 or fill out our online form to schedule your appointment with our Oklahoma City, OK office.
Request an Appointment
Access your needed information from anywhere, at any time!