Ingrown toenails don’t discriminate – this is a condition that can potentially happen to anyone who has toenails, regardless of age, ethnicity, or gender. You will usually become aware of the problem due to discomfort or pain, but there are other issues that can arise as well.
When a nail grows into the skin flanking it, the risk for infection is heightened. If you, or any of your loved ones, develop an ingrown toenail and need professional care, come see Mikol Anderson, DPM and his team here at Anderson Foot & Ankle Clinic.
Why Your Toenail Became Ingrown
While it takes an office visit for us to determine exactly what is happening with your toenail(s), there are only a handful of common reasons for an ingrown toenail. These include:
- An inherited nail structure or unusually curved toenails. For some patients, there was no other factor than simply the way the toenail grows on its own. As we noted in the opening of this webpage, anyone with toenails could be at risk for this problem. A clear example: Dr. Anderson has had to perform ingrown toenail treatment for a 3-month old infant. (Fortunately, he was able to provide relief for the child!)
- Clipping your toenails incorrectly. Roughly 90% of the general population should trim their toenails straight across, but far too many opt to round them off instead. This is likely attributed to the fact that’s how we trim our fingernails. If you aren’t sure about how you should clip your nails, Dr. Anderson will be glad to show you.
- Physical trauma. In certain cases, the root cause of an ingrown toenail is physical trauma from the patient dropping something heavy on his or her foot, particularly the toe area.
- Wearing improperly fitting footwear. Ingrown toenails can be one of the (many) problems that develop when you wear shoes that are too tight. Tight footwear squashes the toes together in the front and can force a nail to become ingrown.
What Can Be Done About an Ingrown Toenail?
Before we discuss ingrown toenail treatment, let’s start with a quick look at why it is so important.
Obviously, if you are in pain or discomfort due to an ingrown nail, you will want relief. Perhaps more important than that, though, is the fact this condition increases the risk for infection. When the nail pierces the skin, it creates an opening for microorganisms—fungus, bacteria, viruses—to invade the body. This is certainly undesirable for otherwise healthy individuals, but it becomes downright dangerous if diabetes is in the picture.
With regard to treatment, Dr. Anderson will assess your particular condition to determine the best course of action. If you are diabetic, the treatment plan will likely be more aggressive to help reduce your risk for potential infection. In addition to diabetes, whether or not the condition is recurrent is another consideration.
For a mild case, especially when caught early, treatment might center on soaking the foot and gently lifting the ingrown edge. A bit of clean waxed dental floss may be placed underneath that edge. This can encourage the nail to grow above the skin—as it should—and not into it. Antibiotic cream or ointment, along with proper bandaging, will help prevent infection.
After this conservative treatment, you should switch to either sandals or open-toed shoes to keep pressure off the toe while it heals. If you are experiencing pain, we may recommend using medication—like acetaminophen, ibuprofen, or naproxen sodium—but make sure you check with us if you have any questions or concerns.
Some cases require more than conservative care. In cases like these—particularly when a nail repeatedly becomes ingrown—Dr. Anderson may recommend removing either a portion of the affected nail or even the entire toenail. Depending on your case, you might be presented with several options, including permanent removal. To remove a nail permanently, Dr. Anderson will use a chemical solution to destroy the nail matrix, which then keeps the nail from growing back.
How to Prevent an Ingrown Toenail
The best treatment for any medical condition—including ingrown toenails—is to simply prevent them from happening in the first place. When it comes to ingrown toenail prevention, you should adhere to the following practices:
- Always wear shoes that fit properly. Your shoes should always have about a thumb’s width of space between the front of the shoe and your longest toe. Also, you should be able to wiggle your toes freely. If you can’t, pick another pair.
- Clip your toenails the right way. Not sure what is the best trimming practice for your nails? Come see Dr. Anderson and he will be glad to help you.
- Protect your feet. If your job requires you to move heavy objects on a frequent basis, protect your feet with (well-fitting!) steel-toed work boots or safety shoes.
- Ask for help. In the event you need to move something heavy at home, see if you can get a friend or loved one to help. This will lower the odds of a crushed foot.
Speaking of “ask for help,” don’t hesitate to reach out to Anderson Foot & Ankle Clinic whenever you need professional foot care treatment or information. We are here to help with any foot or ankle issue that arises, so contact us today and find out what we can do for you. Give our Salt Lake City, UT office a call at (801) 269-9939.