Ingrown Toenails: Causes and Treatment

October 25, 2008

When the sharp corner of the toenail grows toward the inner skin of the toe, there is pain and discomfort. This is what’s commonly known as an ingrown toenail. It is like a sharp object digging into the skin. If this sharp corner is not removed or treated, it could lead to toe inflammation or infection.

Proper foot care is crucial for your feeling of overall well-being, and some seemingly minor foot conditions can turn into painful experiences that could affect your mood at work and around your family.  Ingrown toenails are very painful. Most people who have this condition cannot walk normally, and some people find it difficult to even walk at all. If left untreated, the sharp corner that digs into the skin would develop new painful skin or yellowish fluid. In other words, the longer the ingrown toenail stays, the more likely that it will develop other complications to the toes.

Causes of Ingrown Toenails

Our toenails grow normally in a straight manner starting from birth. Toenails are intended to grow within their line without touching the skin. However, if the person does not know proper foot care, an ingrown toenail may develop. The most common causes of this condition are the following:

  • Use of tight- fitting shoes. This causes pressure to the toes. As a result, the toenails develop improperly so  they touch the skin on the edge.  People who do not know proper foot care tend to use any shoes, even if they are not healthy for their feet, or not suitable for their size.
  • Not using the right shoe inserts.  Generally, orthotic insoles are used to relieve pain and align your feet properly, thus reducing this condition. However, you should be guided by a professional, otherwise it may cause compression or pressure to the feet. When this happens, the toenail may grow abnormally.
  • Improper cutting of toenails. The proper way to cut toenails is straight across. If the cutting is rounded or arched, it leaves a space of skin on the edge. When the toenail grows, it could touch the skin, thus causing growth to develop  inwards.
  • Foot infection, injury, or toe damage may cause the toenail to grow abnormally. It is advisable to wear orthotic insoles if you experience some foot disorders. Otherwise, growth of the toenail could be curled towards the skin.

Treating Ingrown Toenails

As soon as the ingrown toenail develops, you feel a sharp pain. To prevent further damage or infection, appropriate foot care should be undertaken right away. You can follow the simple steps below to treat ingrown toenails:

  • Soak your feet in a warm water to soften your skin and temporarily relieve pain.
  • Wash the toes with water and soap and keep them dry.
  • Remove the ingrown toenail with a nail cutter or a device that elevates the nail away from the skin. This is a painful process, but it is the only way to remove the abnormal toenail growth.
  • Avoid using tight-fitting shoes, so that compression of the skin to the toenail is prevented. If possible, use orthotics to give your feet comfort while healing the feet from ingrown toenails.
  • If you think you cannot remove the ingrown toenail yoursel, or the condition is severe, you need to seek medical assistance. From then on, proper foot care should be applied regularly.

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