Yes, it hurts. Pain, soreness, tenderness and inflammation in and around the toenail area are all telltale signs of an ingrown toenail.
If you’re one of the 3 million people in the U.S. each year suffering from this condition, then you know firsthand how frustrating the symptoms can be!
An ingrown toenail is typically self-diagnosable.
In other words, you can tell just by looking at it and feeling the tenderness that the toenail is ingrown.
Known as onychocryptosis, ingrown toenails occur when the corner of the toenail digs into the skin around the side or the end of the toe.
When this happens, the toe starts to hurt and become inflamed in the area where the toenail digs in.
If the condition becomes severe enough, the area that is inflamed can even grow excess tissue or start to drain fluid.
Ingrown toenails can happen on any toe, but are most common on the big toe…
…and if left untreated, they can lead to an infection or an abscess that requires surgery.
In the worst cases, a condition called osteomyelitis may occur. This causes the bone itself to become infected.
The top cause of ingrown toenails is wearing shoes that are too tight or don’t fit properly, injuring the toe or improperly cutting the toenail.
The majority of people who develop ingrown toenails are adults and adolescents, as the condition is highly uncommon among children and infants.
People with diabetes are at the highest risk for complications from ingrown toenails.
Let’s take a look at some of the top treatments available. (Please note, however, that if you think your ingrown toenail is infected, see a podiatrist. Do not try to treat it yourself.)
Some treatments that you can try at home for ingrown toenails include the following:
1.) To keep the pain and swelling down, soak your foot in lukewarm water for 15 minutes a day. Be sure to dry your foot completely after soaking it.
2.) Always be sure to keep your foot dry (other than the times when you are soaking it).
3.) Use antibiotic ointment, such as Neosporin, on your toenail. This will help to prevent an infection from occurring.
4.) Take over-the-counter non-steroidal anti-inflammatory medication (NSAIDs). When you take them at higher doses, NSAIDs can reduce inflammation and can lessen the pain that you’re feeling. Be careful, though. Taking too many NSAIDs can cause bleeding in the stomach. Always ask a healthcare professional about the correct dosage before you start a regimen.
5.) Place pieces of sterile cotton between the toenail and the skin. This will give your skin a little bit of cushioning. It’s a good idea to put the cotton in some antiseptic cleanser first, which will moisten it.
6.) Bandage your toe with a Band-Aid to give it some cushion and protect it from touching against anything.
7.) Wear wide shoes. Even better, wear sandals if the weather permits. Never wear shoes that will pinch your toe or crush it. This will cause the pain to get worse.
There are several things that a podiatrist can do to help your toe. They include:
1.) Lifting the nail. As long as there is no puss draining from the area, a podiatrist can lift the edge of the nail and place sterile cotton or even a splint under it. This will help the nail to grow over the edge of the skin. A podiatrist will ask you to soak your toe each day and replace the material to keep the area clean.
2.) Removing part of the nail. If your ingrown toenail is infected, a podiatrist can numb your toe with an anesthetic and trim the nail partially off.
3.) Removing the nail and underlying tissue. For patients with recurring ingrown toenails on the same toe, a podiatrist can use a chemical or a laser to remove the nail and its bed. Keep in mind that part of the nail might not grow back after one of these procedures.
As you can see, ingrown toenails are not fun!
If you don’t happen to have an ingrown toenail, but want to prevent one from occurring, there are several prevention methods that you can follow.
1.) Always trim your toenails straight across instead of trying to shape them. This will prevent toenail corners from growing into your skin.
2.) Trim your toenails to be even with the end of your toe. Cutting your toenails too short may make it easy for the pressure from your shoes to force the nail into the surrounding skin.
3.) Make sure that you always wear shoes that fit you properly. Wearing shoes that are too tight or too high will force your toes into positions that can put pressure on your toenails. Wide-toed shoes are always a good idea, as are shoes with open toes.
4.) If you have diabetes, make sure that you check your feet every day for signs of ingrown toenails.
5.) Protect your feet if you regularly subject them to risks of injury. For example, if your job requires steel toed shoes, make sure you wear them. Never take chances when it comes to the safety of your feet.
By taking great care of your feet, you can prevent ingrown toenails from occurring.
However, if you find yourself in pain from this condition, never hesitate to seek the help of a podiatrist.
If you happen to live in or around the Beltsville, Maryland area (Maryland, Washington D.C., Virginia metro area), give us a call to schedule an appointment or have your questions answered at 301-937-5666.
Or simply fill out the form on the top right of this page.