Ingrown Toenails

It’s just a simple fact that you may develop an ingrown toenail at some point during your life. Most people do at one point or another. 

That “some point” can really be any time. Sometimes babies are even born with a toenail that’s ingrown—likely the result of foot position in the womb.

Regardless of how or when you got your ingrown toenail, taking appropriate steps to treat it will help you get pain under control and encourage faster healing. Sometimes this can be done at home, and sometimes professional treatment is the better choice. 

Read on to learn more about how to deal with this common problem.

What Is an Ingrown Toenail? What Causes It?

An ingrown toenail develops when part of the edge or corner of a toenail starts to grow into the surrounding flesh. Common symptoms include pain, tenderness, swelling, and redness.

In addition to this discomfort, an ingrown toenail puts you at a higher risk of infection—especially if you have diabetes or poor circulation. If you have one of these underlying conditions, or you notice signs of infection (such as severe pain, drainage of pus, or red streaks extending from the toe), seek professional care immediately.

Some of the most common causes of ingrown toenails include:

  • Heredity (some people have naturally curvy nails that are prone to becoming ingrown)
  • Wearing ill-fitting shoes
  • Cutting nails too short
  • Accidental injuries (such as stubbing your toe or dropping a heavy object on your nail)

Conservative Ingrown Toenail Treatment

If you only have a mild case of ingrown toenails, with no signs of infection and no potentially complicating conditions (such as diabetes), you may wish to try caring for the condition at home.

We recommend simply soaking the toe in lukewarm water with some Epsom salt. After your soak, apply some antibiotic ointment. Try not to put too much pressure on the toenail; you may wish to wear open toed shoes. This should help you reduce pain and encourage healing.

Do not use hydrogen peroxide, as this can disrupt the healing process. Do not attempt to cut out the ingrown toenail yourself or place anything under the nail, as this can greatly increase your risk of infection.

If you are reluctant to try handling the problem on your own, or have been unsuccessful in attempts to do so, you should come in to Sunshein Podiatry Associates for professional care. When the condition is caught early and there is no severe pain or sign of infection, we can trim the nail and keep it at a position where it’s comfortable for you. Our store will also have products that can aid your recovery.

    Permanent Treatment for Ingrown Toenails

    Some cases of ingrown toenails do not respond to conservative treatment, and require a more aggressive approach.

    In these instances—and especially when a toenail repeatedly becomes ingrown—we might recommend removal of either a portion or the entire affected nail. We can safely and carefully cut out the ingrown portion of the nail, then apply a chemical to the corresponding portion of the nail bed. The result? The ingrown part of the nail can no longer grow back, reducing your risk of future ingrown toenails along the same nail edge to almost zero.

    It might sound as though removing a toenail will be painful, but this is not the case. Anesthesia will be used to numb the area prior to the procedure, and by the time it wears off your symptoms should be vastly improved.

    How to Prevent an Ingrown Toenail

    The best form of treatment for any medical issue—including ingrown toenails—is to take measures to prevent it from happening in the first place. With regards to ingrown toenail prevention, you should consider the following practices:

    • Always wear shoes that fit properly. There should be about a thumb’s width of space between the front of the shoe and your longest toe, and you should be able to wiggle your toes freely. If these aren’t applying to the shoes you’re wearing, pick another pair.
    • Protect your feet. If you need to move heavy objects on a frequent basis for your job, be sure to protect your feet with (well-fitting!) steel-toed work boots or safety shoes.
    • Clip your toenails the right way. Too often, ingrown nails develop when toenails are trimmed incorrectly. The best practice is to trim to the contour of your nail and avoid clipping too short, or rounding the corners too far inward.

    Ingrown toenail treatment is a service provided by our team here at Sunshein Podiatry Associates, but it’s certainly not the only one. In fact, we provide comprehensive treatment and professional services to address a wide range of foot and ankle issues. 

    If you are suffering from pain or impaired function, contact us and find out what we can do to help you. Give us a call at (937) 435-7477 for more information or to request your appointment today!


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