Ingrown toenails can be extraordinarily painful, even making it uncomfortable to put on shoes or walk. They’re also fairly common foot problems — around 18% of adults have experienced an ingrown toenail at some point during their lives. Part of the reason that ingrown toenails are so prevalent is that many factors contribute to the condition. Fortunately, almost all of them are preventable.
With over a decade of experience in treating ingrown toenails, our experienced podiatrist, Eric Blanson, DPM, here at PMC Foot and Ankle Clinic in Spring, Texas, knows a thing or two about treating and preventing this painful injury.
The first step in preventing ingrown toenails is to understand what causes them in the first place.
Ingrown toenail causes
Though in most cases ingrown toenails develop on your big toe, they can occur on any of your toes. The corner or edge of your nail grows into the flesh of your toe instead of straight out. Many factors increase your risk of this painful condition, including:
- Wearing poor-fitting shoes that crowd your toes and put pressure on your nails
- Injuring a toe
- Cutting your toenails too short
- Not trimming your toenails straight across
- Having a history of ingrown toenails
Your risk of developing an ingrown toenail and other foot and ankle problems increases if you have a health condition such as diabetes or peripheral artery disease that affects your circulation.
Signs of an ingrown toenail
Ingrown toenails are painful. Your toe becomes red and swollen, especially at the side of your nail where it’s pushing into your toe. Ingrown toenails usually develop gradually, so your symptoms progressively worsen over time.
In addition to increasing discomfort that can make it uncomfortable to wear shoes and cause a limp, ingrown toenails can also become infected when left untreated.
Preventing ingrown toenails
To avoid the discomfort that comes with ingrown toenails, you can take some preventive action. The best ways to prevent ingrown toenails include:
Proper foot care
Make sure to trim your toenails straight across. Avoid uneven corners, and don’t cut your nails too short. Make sure to keep your nails clean, including regularly cleaning under your toenails. This helps reduce your risk of infection.
Wear shoes that not only fit properly but also allow plenty of room for your toes. Shoes that crowd your toes put pressure on your nails, pushing them into the flesh of your toes. For example, shoes that are too small, have pointed toes, or high heels can increase your risk of an ingrown toenail.
Make sure to wear the correct footwear for athletic activities. For example, if you run long distances or play a sport that involves kicking, wear the right shoes. Make sure they fit correctly. Alternatively, if you have a career that has a high risk of foot injuries, wear protected, steel-capped shoes or boots to protect your toes and feet.
Manage other health conditions
If you have diabetes, you should have regular appointments with Dr. Blanson so that he can monitor your foot health. He can also care for your nails and skin to prevent injury and disease-related complications like ulcers and infection.
Treating ingrown toenails
If you get an ingrown toenail, you might be able to treat it at home. Many patients find that soaking their foot in warm water and Epsom salt helps. The salt softens the nail and skin, so you can clip the affected area and apply an antibiotic ointment.
We don’t recommend digging out severely ingrown toenails on your own. If your toe looks infected, is warm, or feels tender to touch, make an appointment with Dr. Blanson right away.
You should also make an appointment if you have recurring ingrown toenails or if your nails are naturally thick or curved. We offer treatments to extract the ingrown portion of the nail and prevent it from growing into your toe again.
Call our office, or make an appointment online today if you have an ingrown toenail and need professional help.