How to Prevent Ingrowing Toenails
Ingrowing toenails are a very common condition, especially in the big toe. Left untreated, the toenail can embed itself in the skin & cause infection. The earlier the toenail is treated, the better, but don't let that put you off seeing your podiatrist - even if your toenail is well embedded, a podiatry appointment is definitely the way to getting the problem resolved.
Ingrowing toenails occur when the sides of the toenails develop a curl and pierce the skin. This causes pain, inflammation & possible infection. Eventually there will be a build up of fluid and an overgrowth of skin around the affected toe.
If your toenail looks infected, if it is bleeding or has pus coming from it, you must see your GP or podiatrist. Even if it is not infected, pain and pressure from the toenail can really affect your daily activities and seeing a good podiatrist can make a huge difference. Even if you suspect a future problem, seeing a professional now can help teach you how to care for your own nails and help avoid problems in later life.
Causes of Ingrowing Toenails
- The common cause of ingrowing toenails is badly cut toenails. You may think that your toenails look nice, but cutting them too short or cutting the edges too low can cause ingrowing toenails. Often when a toenail has just started to curl towards the skin, people will cut the edges of the nail shorter, which in fact makes the problem worse.
- Sometimes ingrowing toenails are inherited. It's just the way you're made! You can still have an impact on how your nails grow though to avoid the problems of ingrowing toenails.
- People with diabetes or poor circulation can be more likely to have ingrowing toenails.
- Injury can have an effect on nail growth and cause ingrowing toenails. Even stubbing your toe can change how your nail grows.
- Toenail infections can cause the nail to thicken and grow incorrectly.
- Tight shoes or socks can put pressure on the nail and, especially when the feet are warm, change the shape of the nail and push it into the skin. High heels also put more pressure on the front of the foot and toenails.
- Believe it or not, even having sweaty feet can influence the severity of ingrowing toenails as it can make your nails soft and easier to have their shape changed. It also makes the skin around the nail soft so easier to pierce.
Preventing Ingrowing Toenails
- Cutting your toenails correctly will help your toenails grow correctly. Cut them straight across in a square shape, not at an angle or curved down at the edges. Don't cut them too short.
- Wear shoes that fit properly and are not too tight. Try not to wear very high heels.
- When possible wear shoes that allow your feet to breath. Try to wear open toed shoes or go barefoot when safe to do so.
- Wash your feet daily and dry them thoroughly.
- Use a pumice stone or foot file to remove dead or hard skin from the feet.
- Change your socks or tights regularly and make sure they too fit correctly.
- See your podiatrist as soon as you suspect a problem. They will often be able to treat them and give you advice as to how to prevent or treat ingrowing toenails.
Treating Ingrowing Toenails
- Cut your toenails straight across NOT curved down at the edges.
- After washing the feet, gently push the skin away from the nail with a cotton bud.
- If the skin is hard you can soften it with foot softening cream, or olive oil.
- Good quality toenail straightening clips can help straighten the toenail.
- Keep your feet clean - wash them regularly with soap to prevent infection.
- Change your socks regularly.
- Wear good fitting shoes that breathe well and are not too tight.
If your toenail is already in a bad way, don't panic! A good podiatrist can often resolve ingrowing toenail problems with little pain or trauma. If it does need surgery, it is generally a quick and simple procedure.
Partial nail avulsion involves a local anaesthetic to numb your toe, the edges of your toenail cut away and any pus drained. A chemical is applied to prevent the nail from growing back and if necessary you will be given antibiotics to get rid of any lingering infection.
Total nail avulsion involves removal of the whole toenail. Again, this is generally a quick and painless procedure.
After surgery you may require gentle painkillers such as paracetamol or ibuprofen. Your toe will be wrapped in a sterile bandage and you may need to rest it and keep it raised for a day or two. You will feel more comfortable wearing soft or open-topped shoes for a few days.
Don't suffer the ongoing pain and restrictions of an ongoing toenail. See your podiatrist and get it sorted quickly and simply.
Disclaimer: This information should be used as supplementary information only. Advice should be sought from your GP or qualified podiatrist.
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