How you cut your toenails may seem trivial in the grand scheme of things, but it’s actually an important part of maintaining your overall health and wellness, especially if you’re a diabetic.
Here at PMC Foot and Ankle Clinic in Spring, Texas, Dr. Eric Blanson and our team see lots of patients whose improper clipping techniques have caused complications that require medical attention.
To help you avoid such complications, we’ve put together this guide on common mistakes people make and the correct technique to ensure your podiatric health.
Ingrown toenails: A common problem
Any nail can become ingrown, but the most common nail is the one on your big toe. Ingrown nails occur because:
- The skin on the toe grows over the nail itself
- The nail grows into the skin around it
Both occurrences usually result from clipping your nails improperly, and they lead to a hard, painful, red swelling at the corner of the nail. If left untreated, these leave you vulnerable to either a bacterial or a fungal infection.
Bacterial infections usually leak pus and, sometimes, blood. Fungal infections produce discolored toenails that are thick, brittle, and smell bad.
Complications from an ingrown toenail can become especially severe if you have diabetes, which causes circulatory problems that lead to poor blood flow in the feet, as well as nerve damage resulting in the loss of sensation. A simple cut can lead to an infected ulcer.
Common toenail-clipping mistakes and how to correct them
Here are a number of common mistakes people make and how to avoid them.
Using the wrong tool
Using regular cutting scissors or even knives for your nails doesn’t do the job properly, and you run the risk of cutting yourself in the process.
The correct tools are dedicated nail clippers or manicure scissors. In fact, you should have two pairs, a smaller one for your fingers, and a larger one for the broader, thicker nails on your toes.
In addition, by using separate clippers, you reduce the chance of bacterial or fungal contamination between your feet and hands.
Thoroughly clean each of your clippers between uses with 70%-90% isopropyl alcohol, rinsing them with hot water and drying them completely before putting away.
Clipping nails while wet
It’s tempting to wait until you get out of the bath or shower to cut your nails, as they’ll be softer. The trouble is, your nails are likely to bend or tear when you try to cut them, and you run the risk of injury.
Unless you have thick toenails, which soften in the bath, you should cut them when they’re dry to ensure a clean cut.
Clipping your nails too long or too short
Lots of people cut their nails way back, so they don’t have to do it too often, or they leave them too long, for appearance.
The problem is, if your nails are too short, you run the risk of developing an ingrown toenail; if your nails are too long, they’re likely to snag on your sock or shoe and tear uncomfortably.
The best length to leave your nails is at 1-2 millimeters (0.04 to 0.08 of an inch) above where they attach to the toe.
Curving the edges
Some people think that curving the edges of the nail makes it look more attractive or keeps it from getting damaged, but you’re more prone to ingrown toenails if you round them.
Instead, cut your toenails straight across, preferably with two cuts. Make the first cut with the clippers slightly off the nail’s side to create a straight edge. Then make the second following that line all the way to the other side.
Trimming the cuticles
You may think that cutting or pushing back the cuticles may make the nail look more attractive, but it’s also bad for your foot health.
The cuticles protect the nail root, so when you trim or cut them, it’s easier for bacteria and fungi to enter the body and cause an infection. Nail infections can take a long time to heal.
Failing to moisturize the nails
You keep your hands and the soles of your feet moisturized, so why wouldn’t you moisturize the nails? Moisturizing after you’ve trimmed the nails helps to keep them flexible. This is particularly important when the air is dry, because dry nails split more easily and can cause a cut or a tear.
Want to learn more about how to trim your nails to ensure better foot health? Give PMC Foot and Ankle Clinic a call or schedule a consultation online with us today.