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Preventing and Treating Ingrown Toenails

Doctor removes calluses, corns and treats ingrown nail.
Ingrown toenails can be very painful, every step causing a stabbing pain in your toe. An ingrown toenail is caused when the toenail starts to grow into the skin on the side of your toe. When your nail grows into the skin, it may begin to curl. You might be tempted to dig out the nail yourself, but that can cause injury or infection.

Ingrown toenails can be caused by a number of things. Read on for further information about ingrown toenails including the causes of ingrown toenails, prevention tips, and treatment options.

What Causes Ingrown Toenails?

Ingrown toenails can be caused by being born with a nail that is too big for the toe, which could be hereditary or just a deformity. It can also be caused by:
  • Trauma. Trauma caused by injuries such as your toe being smashed or stubbed.
  • Poor footwear. Improperly fitting footwear can cause ingrown toenails. If your toes are being squished together or constantly rubbing on the side of the shoe, you will likely experience an ingrown nail.
  • Trimming nails improperly. If your nails are not being trimmed properly, they will begin to grow down into the skin. Nails should not be clipped at an angle but rather straight across.
These reasons are the most common causes of ingrown toenails. Infection and pain can be caused by trying to treat the ingrown nail yourself. If you dig into the skin with your nail clippers, you will most likely do more damage.

How Do You Prevent Ingrown Toenails?

Prevent unnecessary pain by preventing ingrown toenails. When clipping your nails, don't clip the edges to give them that rounded look. Keep them clipped straight across. If you clip them at an angle, the nail to grow out towards the edges and into the skin further.

Be sure to wear shoes that allow your toes to move freely without being smashed together (which can also cause bunions). Shoes should have plenty of cushioning and not be so large that they cause your feet to slide forward.

How Do You Treat Ingrown Toenails?

Ingrown toenails should be treated by a professional podiatrist. When seeing a professional isn't possible, here are some things you can do to relieve the pain without causing infection:
  • Treat the infection. If your toe is infected or you see pus coming out of the area, give your feet a good soaking in warm water. Pour Epsom salts in the water as well, as they can help clear up the infection.
  • Keep feet dry. Dry your feet thoroughly after soaking your feet, then keep them dry throughout the day. Be sure to wear clean, dry socks and change them often if your feet sweat a lot. Wear moisture-wicking socks, as they are thinner and more breathable.
  • Relieve pain. If your feet are in pain from the infection or just from the nail being embedded in the toe, use an over-the-counter pain reliever to help with the pain. 
  • Lift the nail. You may be able to lift the nail off of the skin by taking a piece of dental floss and sliding it along the nail and lifting it off of the skin. Add some cotton beneath the nail. Change the cotton each day to prevent any infection.
Ingrown toenails may require surgery, especially if you have excessive swelling, pain, or a recurring infection. See your podiatrist for treatment options. Nonsurgical treatments may be tried first before surgery. 

With surgery, part of the nail may be removed, as well as some tissue near the nail. This surgery could be painful and may take a little bit of recovery time.

If you have ingrown toenails, take a look at how you clip your nails and the type of footwear you have been wearing. Talk to your podiatrist at Huntsville Podiatry Center, PC if you have problems with ingrown toenails or any other foot health issues.

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