Ins and Outs of Ingrown Toenails
Ingrown toenails, also referred to as onychocryptosis, occur when the corners or sides of your nail curve and dig into the soft flesh surrounding it. This causes pain, irritation, redness, swelling, and eventual infection. Most often the condition affects the big toe, but it can happen to other toes as well. Treatments like foot soaks and medication can alleviate the problem with early diagnosis, but if symptoms are ignored, surgery may have to be performed. Seeking treatment as soon as the problem starts can keep it from getting worse and allow you to avoid a surgical procedure.
Believe it or not, the leading cause of ingrown toenails is trimming your nails incorrectly. People typically cut their nails by curving along the edges. It is best, however, to cut your nails straight across. This allows it to grow straight out instead of down where it can dig into the soft tissue of your toe. Also, be sure not to cut nails too short, which doesn’t just hurt, it opens the door to infection as well.
Another culprit is ill-fitting shoes. Footwear that is too tight or too short crowds your toes, putting too much pressure on them.
Heredity can also play a part-- if others in your family tend to get ingrown toenails, you may be prone to this condition as well. Additional causes include poor foot structure, toenail fungus, repeated trauma like toes smashing against the front of your shoes, or injuries like dropping a heavy object on your toe.
Ingrown toenails are actually a pretty common ailment. Telltale signs of the condition are tenderness, redness, and swelling. If infection sets in, you could also notice drainage and a foul odor. The best thing you can do is to catch it early. At the onset of symptoms, soak your foot in warm soapy water or salt water, then apply an antiseptic and bandage. If after a several days you do not see any improvements, you should make an appointment to see your podiatrist. An oral or topical medication may be prescribed.
If the problem is severe, however, the podiatrist will likely perform a surgery called partial nail plate avulsion. This is a procedure in which part of the ingrown toenail is removed. In chronic cases, a more aggressive surgery can permanently prevent ingrown nails from coming back. In this procedure, the ingrown corner of the nail is removed along with its root, usually by use of a chemical or laser treatment.
For those with diabetes, it is especially important to seek treatment as soon as possible since the disease causes you to be more susceptible to infections.
Luckily there are plenty of things you can do to avoid getting ingrown toenails. At the top of the list is wearing shoes that fit properly. A helpful hint is to shop for footwear in the evening when your feet are at their biggest. Make sure the toe is wide enough and plenty long. Don’t wear socks that are too tight either.
Also, remember to keep your nails trimmed and cut them straight across. Use large clippers that have been disinfected with rubbing alcohol first. Cut your nails when they are dry, as wet nails can tear easily. Keeping feet clean is a good deterrent too.
Know the Symptoms
If you have a tender toe, you might be suffering from an ingrown nail. Don’t let the condition get worse. Call 302-623-4250 to make an appointment with Dr. Raymond A. DiPretoro Jr. You can opt to visit us online as well, or stop by the Advanced Foot and Ankle Center Inc. located in Wilmington, Glasgow, and Newark DE.