What Causes Ingrown Toenails?
An ingrown toenail is no fun. Not only does it often hurt and feel uncomfortable, but it can stop you from digging your toes into the sand and wearing your favourite summer shoes on a day out. If you have an ingrown toenail, you may be wondering how you can fix it and how quickly, as well as what caused it in the first place.
This article explains what an ingrown toenail is, the symptoms, and what may cause ingrown toenails. For personalised advice, contact our team at Midland Podiatry today.
What Is An Ingrown Toenail?
An ingrown toenail is where your toenail grows into the skin of your toe, or the skin on one or both sides of the nail begins to grow over the nail’s edges. This is often painful and can be caused by a number of things including lifestyle factors.
Ingrown toenails are relatively common, especially among teenagers and those with sweaty feet. While any toenail can become ingrown, it’s most commonly seen on the big toe.
What Are The Symptoms Of An Ingrown Toenail?
An ingrown toenail often begins by feeling hard and swollen, and the surrounding skin may also look swollen. You may see the skin growing over the nail, and the skin may also look red and feel warm to the touch. You may also feel pain when you place pressure on the toe, or see fluid building up around the toe.
If the nail grows into the skin or the skin grows over the edge of the nail, you may be at risk of a toenail infection. This is because bacteria may be able to enter the area. Signs of infection may include bleeding and pus draining from the area. To prevent the infection from worsening, see a podiatrist as soon as possible.
What Causes Ingrown Toenails?
Ingrown toenails may be congenital, meaning they result from your foot shape. For example, if your nail is disproportionately larger than the toe or if the tissue surrounding the nail border naturally grows around the nail, your ingrown toenail may be a congenital issue.
Other factors that may cause ingrown toenails include:
- Incorrectly cut toenails, for instance, if you cut your toenails too short or round them off too much, which may cause the nail to grow into the skin
- Irregular, curved toenails
- Footwear that is too tight, narrow, or flat for your feet
- Wearing shoes that place pressure on the big toes
- Tearing the corner of the nail
- Hurting your toe such as banging it into something, dropping something on it, or having it stepped on, which may lead to toe trauma
- Poor posture
- Improper foot hygiene, such as not properly drying or cleaning your feet
- Participating in sports or activities involving kicking a ball or putting pressure on your feet for long periods of time, such as ballet, football, kickboxing, and soccer
What Treatments Are There For Ingrown Toenails?
Depending on the severity of your ingrown toenail, you may be able to treat it at home. Commence treatment as soon as you notice your ingrown toenail for the best chance of improving it. At-home treatments include:
- Soaking your feet in warm water for 15 to 20 minutes three to four times per day, keeping your feet dry for the rest of the day
- Using a cotton ball soaked in olive oil to push the skin away from the toenail edge
- Using over-the-counter medications such as paracetamol
- Applying a topical antibiotic
- Wearing sandals rather than closed-toe shoes
- Wearing comfortable shoes with adequate room for your toes
If your toenail doesn’t improve, has pierced the skin, or if you see any sign of infection, it’s important to seek treatment from a podiatrist. As with at-home treatment, the treatment you may need from your podiatrist will depend on the severity of your ingrown toenail. This may include:
- Oral antibiotics
- Partial nail avulsion (removal)
- Complete nail avulsion (removal)
Partial and full nail avulsions typically see the nail regrow in three to four months. In some cases such as in recurring ingrown toenails, a permanent avulsion may be necessary.
Looking For Help With Ingrown Toenails?
At Midland Podiatry, we frequently see people with ingrown toenails and are dedicated to helping these toenails grow in the right way. If your ingrown toenail isn’t improving or is making day-to-day life difficult, our professional and caring team is here for you. To make an appointment to discuss possible treatment options for your ingrown toenail, contact us at Midland Podiatry today.