Ask Al: How can I prevent ingrown toenails?

In Foot Facts by Alnoor Ladhani, Chiropodist

When the edge of a toenail, often on the big toe, grows into the skin instead of over it, you may experience pain. This is due to the corners or sides of the nail digging into the skin, and you may find that the toe becomes red, swollen, or irritated. If you don’t work to correct this problem quickly, you may find that you develop an infection. Often, this problem can be treated in the comfort of your own home but, if the pain and swelling become severe, a doctor can help you relieve this discomfort and prevent complications from the ingrown toenail.

ingrown toenail

Pain is often the first symptom you will notice when your toenail begins to grow into the skin. Redness and swelling may follow, and you may find some drainage. Some individuals find an odor accompanies the ingrown toenail while others say the skin tissue becomes prominent. This is known as proud flesh. If you notice redness that seems to be spreading or any pus coming from the toe or you have diabetes or blood circulation issues, you need to speak to your Chiropodist right away to avoid complications seen with this common condition.

An ingrown toenail may be caused by a number of things. Often, it is the result of the toenails being trimmed incorrectly, although an injury to the toe may also lead to the toenail growing into the skin. If you wear shoes that don’t fit correctly and they crowd the toes, your nails may grow into the skin. This condition does seem to run in families. For some, it’s simply a matter of the way the toenails grow that puts them more at risk of developing an ingrown toenail.

In extreme cases if you don’t treat the ingrown toenail, you may develop an infection in the underlying bone. This infection can become very severe, especially if you have other health problems, such as diabetes. In certain situations, the doctor may need to operate on your foot to prevent further damage to the bone and death and decay of the tissue. This is a condition known as gangrene and comes about as a result of the blood flow being interrupted to that part of the body.

Home treatment involves immersing the foot in warm salt water to remove any infection. This should be followed up with an antiseptic and a bandage to cover the area. Anyone with a medical condition that affects the circulatory system should see their Chiropodist for treatment. It may be necessary for the chiropodist to remove a part of the toenail and may prescribe medications to fight the infection.

To prevent this problem in the future, be sure to cut your toenails straight across and wear shoes that fit properly. Avoid footwear with a narrow or pointy toe box, as these tend to crowd the toes, increasing the risk of an ingrown toenail. Always keep the toenails even with the end of the toes as well. These simple steps will help to prevent ingrown toenails in the future.

If you struggle with the pain and inconvenience of ingrown nails please book an appointment so that we can help ease the pain and prevent further occurrences.