Are you experiencing discomfort and swelling at the top of one of your toes? It could be because of an ingrown toenail. This frustrating condition occurs when an edge of your nail curls and grows into the surrounding skin.
As you can imagine (or are experiencing), this can be painful and inconvenient. It is important to be aware of this issue and how to stop an ingrown toenail so that you can act promptly to avoid the issue becoming severe and hard to treat. When a toenail becomes ingrown, it can lead to irritation and inflammation, and if it causes the skin to break, bacteria may take up residence and cause a potentially dangerous infection.
If left too long, the skin may even start to grow over the section of the nail that is ingrown. There are at-home remedies that you can employ to help improve this issue, however, it is generally beneficial to seek professional assistance.
At The Foot Clinic, we can identify the cause of your discomfort and determine the best steps to take to help your symptoms and prevent further damage to your nail and skin.
Causes of an Ingrown Toenail
There are several reasons why your nail may begin to dig into the surrounding skin. These can include:
Insufficient or incorrect nail trimming
If you cut your toenails in a curve or too short, they can start to press into the surrounding skin, or the skin can fold over the nails.
It is best to cut them straight across. Do not tear or pick your nails; use specialised nail scissors or clippers.
If your socks or shoes are regularly putting pressure on your toes or squeezing them together for an extended period of time, your nails may grow in the direction they are being held, which often impacts the skin.
It is particularly important to be mindful of the rapid growth that children and teens experience due to this reason. We can help you to make sure footwear is not too tight, short, or narrow, and can provide advice regarding suitable shoes and socks that do not crowd your toes.
Trauma to the area
If your toe sustains an injury, such as when kicking a coffee table or a hard ball, the nail or skin may be damaged, which could lead to incorrect nail growth.
If the surrounding skin is regularly soft due to dampness, such as sweat or wet socks, your toenails can more easily irritate the skin.
Take steps to keep your feet dry as possible. For example, change sweaty socks and thoroughly dry your feet with a towel after showering or swimming.
Natural nail shape
Some people have toenails that are curved or fan-shaped, which is often a genetic trait. We can provide advice regarding how to stop an ingrown toenail from occurring if this is the case for you.
As we age, nails typically get thicker, which can increase the chance of them digging into the surrounding skin.
Certain medical conditions
Some conditions that involve circulation or immune system issues, such as diabetes and heart disease, can make you more prone to ingrown toenails. Smoking, fungal infections, and psoriasis can also increase your risk.
Symptoms of an Ingrown Toenail
Any toenail can become ingrown, however, this condition most commonly affects the big toe. Symptoms that may accompany an ingrown toenail can include:
- Tenderness and pain.
- Surrounding skin becoming hard and tough.
If the surrounding skin breaks due to the ingrown toenail, bacteria may be able to enter, and this can result in an infection.
It is crucial this is treated as quickly as possible by a professional as it can lead to serious problems, such as the infection moving down to your bone.
Symptoms that may indicate an infection can include:
- Fluid leaking at the site.
- Foul odour.
Treatment for an Ingrown Toenail
Once we assess your toe, confirm the diagnosis, and identify contributing factors, we can provide treatment to help improve your symptoms and promote more natural growth.
Treatment can include at-home remedies, but it is important to see a professional if you have an increased risk of complications developing, such as having a relevant health condition, or signs of an infection.
Steps you can take for a few weeks until the nail begins to grow more naturally include:
- Soaking your feet. This can be done 3 to 4 times a day with warm water for 15 to 20 minutes.
- Gently and slowly moving the surrounding skin away from the nail after soaking it with a cotton bud.
When your nail begins to grow in a better position, place a tiny amount of cotton wool between the skin and the nail to prevent the issue from recurring. Replace the cotton wool every time you soak your feet. We can guide you with this step.
If there is an infection present, you may require antibiotics, in which case we may refer you to a doctor.
We can clean and drain pus from the area, and trim or remove the nail if required.
Visit The Foot Clinic for Ingrown Toenail Treatment and Prevention
If you are experiencing discomfort associated with ingrown toenails, it is important to seek assistance and treatment as quickly as possible.
At The Foot Clinic, we regularly treat ingrown toenails and are experienced in providing high-quality care to help improve the issue. Please contact our friendly team to organise an appointment so we can provide treatment and advice.