You can’t go through life without something causing a pinch or irritation now and then…but you just don’t expect your own toenail to turn on you!
An ingrown toenail, however, is literally that—when the nail has curved and is starting to grow into the surrounding skin. The medical name for this is “onychocryptosis,” but people usually start backing away from us when we bring out that fact at parties.
While the big toe is the most frequent sufferer of an ingrown nail, it is not unheard of to see it on other toes as well. And which of your toenails has become ingrown often is related to the causes behind this problem developing in the first place.
The more we know about the causes of ingrown toenails, the more we can do to treat and prevent them. Here are some fast and useful facts on this condition, as well as what you can do about it.
What Does an Ingrown Toenail Look Like?
We won’t spend too much time on this one. Most people have a good idea of when they have an ingrown nail. What they might not know is when an ingrown toenail looks especially bad.
A standard ingrown toenail will usually exhibit:
- Redness around the ingrown part of the nail.
- Some swelling up around the nail.
- Pain and tenderness, either by pressing against the skin or bearing weight on the toe.
These symptoms are typical and not usually much reason for concern. However, there are times when the case is especially severe or the toe might become infected. It is important to see us if you have any of the following problems:
- Your toe is causing you a great deal of pain, or the pain is interfering with your daily life.
- Your toe is oozing pus or discharge.
- There is a growing or radiating redness that seems to be spreading away from the toe.
- You have diabetes or another condition that interferes with your circulation, making any kind of sore or injury on your foot more dangerous.
Never try to wait out or perform self-care on a toe that might be infected or is at risk. Give us a call and let us know what is happening before taking any major action.
What Causes Ingrown Toenails?
There are a few different ways that a toenail can start “going rogue” and digging into the surrounding flesh. In most cases, you can blame excess force or injury of some sort.
Here are some of the most common causes of ingrown toenails:
- Wearing shoes that too tight or crowd your toes. Toes need space to move a bit inside your shoe. If they remain crammed up against each other for long periods of time, that’s placing a lot of force on them that may direct their nails to start growing inward.
- Trimming your toenails incorrectly. Cutting your toenails too curved can encourage them to grow against the skin as well. If you cut your nails too short, you also risk causing minor trauma to the nail bed that can also encourage abnormal growth.
- Injuring your nail. If cutting too close can injure your nail enough to make it become ingrown, just imagine what dropping something heavy on your toe can do! Trauma doesn’t just have to come from an accident, however. The repetitive impact of your toes striking the front of your shoe—such as from running—can cause the type of trauma that can lead to ingrown toenails as well.
- Simply being born that way. Some people just have genetics that leave their toenails more prone to becoming ingrown. While shoe choices and preventing injuries can help keep more from happening, it is likely not to put a full stop to the condition.
What to Do About an Ingrown Toenail
Most ingrown toenails can be treated easily enough at home—as long as you’re not exhibiting any of the problem signs mentioned above.
- Soak your foot in warm water for 15-20 minutes, 2-3 times per day. This will soften the nail, and can help relieve pain and some swelling, too. Feel free to add Epsom salts to the soak, if you wish. Completely dry the foot when done.
- Carefully slide dental floss or tiny pieces of cotton between the ingrown nail and the skin. You can soak the cotton in a bit of water or antiseptic first, if you would like.
- Use antibiotic ointment on the toe to help keep a potential infection at bay.
- Cover the toe with a Band-Aid for some added protection and a little more comfort.
If it has been a few days and you have not seen any improvement—or if things have even gotten worse!—it’s time to give us a call.
One thing you should never do is try to dig into the nail with clippers or other instruments and try to remove a chunk of the nail. That’s often going to lead to more pain and trouble than if you had taken a gentler approach. And if your toe needs more advanced treatment, we will be able to provide it with the right tools (and in a much less agonizing manner).
What if My Ingrown Nails Keep Coming Back?
If you are consistently suffering from ingrown nails, and they keep happening even after you take steps to prevent them, you might just have naturally curved nails.
In this case, a preferable move may be surgically removing a portion of the nail and treating the underlying nail bed to keep the nail from growing back. This procedure can be performed in-office under a local anesthesia.
Oklahoma City’s Ingrown Toenail Experts
If you feel an ingrown toenail is infected, is too painful to handle, or you simply have questions, don’t hesitate to contact us. We’re happy to help you find the comfort you need and get rid of a persistent problem if one is happening!
Call our Oklahoma City office at (405) 947-8041 or our Enid office at (580) 237-3338. You can also reach us electronically via our online contact form.