Every once in a while, you may force your feet into shoes a size too small. Or hit your toes head-on into corners of furniture if you aren’t paying attention. Or you may be clipping your nails, and cut too close to the skin. Whatever the reasons, sometimes you’re left with a nail that starts to curve downward into the nail bed, the skin under and around your toenail.
An ingrown toenail is exactly what it sounds like: the borders of the nail become trained to grow into the skin. It is a form of nail disease where the borders of the toenail dig down into the soft tissue surrounding it.
There are many possible causes of the discomfort or pain felt by an ingrown toenail.
Hurt your feet lately? Falling objects and stubbed toes can injure the nail and cause it to curve downwards toward the skin.
What size shoe do you wear? Slipping your feet into tight shoes can force toenails to grow downwards in repeatedly compressed space. This is the most common cause of ingrown toenails. Moreover, having sweaty feet actually increases the chances of ingrown nails occurring, as damp skin is softer and more likely to be dug into.
Cut your nails often? Excessive, close trimming of toenails conditions the nail border to hug the nail bed and even dig down into it.
Do your relatives have ingrown toenails? Surprisingly enough, if your parents experienced ingrown toenails, the toe trouble you feel may have come from them.
Examine the questionable toe. Do the borders of the nail extend down into the skin, or apply pressure to the skin? This is the first obvious indicator that you have an ingrown toenail. The area surrounding the nail border may also be reddened and swollen. If the inside of your toe also feels warm, this may mean that considerable pressure is being placed on your skin from the curved nail. Is the nail infected? It doesn’t take more than one google image search to see the effects of letting an ingrown toenail go untreated. Pus (white or yellowish fluid) coming out from under the toenail is a strong sign of infection. Infection can spread through the toe and into the bone, so please see Dr. Scales in his Arvada podiatry office before the condition becomes serious.
Given any present symptoms, a podiatrist will be able to spot an ingrown nail without the need of x-rays or many tests. A close examination of the toe will reveal intrusion of the nail into the nail bed, or strong pressure of the nail on surrounding skin. Swelling, redness, or the presence of pus will also tell your doctor if the area is infected.
Scanning the internet will yield various at-home remedies, but these are NOT recommended, especially if you have diabetes, nerve damage, or an infection of the nail. It is important to see your foot doctor before thinking about “bathroom surgeries”, where people soak the foot and try to cut the ingrown nail. More often than not, close cutting can actually cause a nail to re-grow in the same form, angling the nail downward towards the skin.
When you see Dr. Scales, antibiotics may be prescribed to clear up an infection. You may be advised to soak and massage the toe, and given careful instructions on how to trim the nail without causing deformed regrowth. If the ingrown nail persists, simple surgical procedures may be needed to solve the problem. Chemicals or surgical cuts may be applied to remove damaged areas of your toenail, and successful regrowth may take a couple months. It is also important to keep feet clean, dry, and in shoes or sandals that leave toes enough room to move.