An ingrown toenail is exactly as it sounds— when the nail grows into the skin at the side of the nail. Just as it can be irritating to have an object pierce the skin, an ingrown toenail may cause pain, redness or swelling, especially while walking.
If the nail actually breaks the skin, the area may become susceptible to infection. Even an ingrown toenail that doesn’t produce any discomfort can result in infection.
What Causes an Ingrown Toenail?
A tendency towards ingrown toenails may be inherited, or the result of trauma such as stubbing the toe, a heavy object falling on the toe, or kicking or running that involves repeated pressure on the toes. At our clinics in DeSoto, Dallas and Sunnyvale (Texas), the most common reason for ingrown toenails that we see is cutting the nails overly short. This causes the skin around the nail to grow over the nail. Another source of ingrown toenails is shoes that don’t fit properly.
People who have had a toenail fungal infection or have lost a nail because of trauma are at greater risk for developing an ingrown toenail.
Ingrown Toenail Treatment
Ingrown toenails may be treated at home if the condition is caught in the early stages. Home treatment is not recommended if there is an infection, or if the patient has a medical condition such as diabetes, nerve damage in the foot, or poor circulation.
In the absence of infection or complicating factors, the foot can be soaked in water with Epsom’s salt, and gently massaged on the side of the nail fold to reduce the inflammation.
If the ingrown toenail doesn’t respond to home treatment, call one of our medical clinics in Sunnyvale, DeSoto or Dallas and make an appointment to speak with a foot specialist.
Professional treatment may include:
- Oral antibiotics if an infection is present.
- Surgery can ease the pain and remove the nail— either a portion or the entire nail.
- Permanent removal may destroy or remove the nail root. This treatment prevents the recurrence of an ingrown toenail.
In most cases, there is little pain after surgery and the patient can resume normal activity within a day.
Preventing Ingrown Toenails
Ingrown toenails are preventable with careful grooming. Trim the nails in a straight line and leave ample nail around the nail bed.
A good test of whether the trimmed nail is the right length is to insert a fingernail under the sides and end of the nail. If there’s not enough space for a fingernail, the toenail is too short. Trim the corners of the nail so there are no jagged edges.
Make sure that footwear fits properly, neither too tight or too loose. For patients with medical conditions that prevent them from sensing pressure from the shoe, a consultation with our medical staff or a shoe store that specializes in orthotics is recommended.
If the patient has the nails trimmed at a spa, care should be taken to see that the nail is trimmed straight across and not overly short.