How Can I Prevent Ingrown Toenails

Painful Ingrown Toenails Causes And Solutions


One of the more common foot complaints is ingrown toenails.  Even without an infection present, ingrown toenails can be painful and can be detrimental to your lifestyle, limiting your ability to accomplish all that you need to do.

An ingrown toenail occurs when the edge of the nail grows into the surrounding soft tissue.  If left untreated, the area can become infected, causing a risk to your overall health.  This can be especially dangerous for someone with diabetes or circulatory problems.

What causes ingrown toenails

There are multiple reasons why ingrown toenails form.  One of the most common is cutting the nails incorrectly (or not cutting them at all).  Another cause is wearing shoes that are too narrow or socks or stockings that are too tight.  Athletes who repeatedly kick balls (such as in football or soccer) are prone to getting ingrown nails.  Dropping something on your toe can cause injury to the nail, subsequently causing it to become ingrown.  Genetics can play a part in the development of ingrown toenails, as can age.  As we get older, it is quite common for the nails to become thicker and more curved.

What are the symptoms of an ingrown toenail?

The first warning sign that a nail is becoming ingrown is usually a tenderness along the edge of the nail.  This may progress to redness, inflammation and pain.  If the nail cuts the soft tissue, bacteria can enter and cause an infection.  If you see any drainage from the area, you smell an odor from the area, or the redness starts to creep up your toe toward your foot, an infection is most likely present.  You need to see your podiatrist quickly to prevent spreading of the infection.

What is the treatment for an ingrown toenail?

If caught early, an ingrown toenail may only require proper trimming to relieve the pressure against the soft tissue and to prevent infection.  Once the nail has penetrated the surrounding tissue, a nail avulsion is usually necessary.  This generally involves removing a slim section of nail along the side, and is often followed by a treatment known as a matrixectomy, which uses a chemical to kill the growth cells to prevent the recurrence of the ingrown nail.  Oral and topical antibiotics may be necessary to treat any infection.  If the area does appear infected, a specimen may be sent to the lab for testing to determine what organism is present and which antibiotic is most likely to eradicate it.  This test is known as a culture and sensitivity.

Does ingrown toenail surgery hurt?

The toe is typically numbed with a local anesthetic prior to the procedure.  Although you may have some inflammation and your toe may be uncomfortable as the anesthetic wears off, there is generally little to no actual pain.

What can I expect after an ingrown toenail surgery?

Proper care following a nail avulsion is important to prevent infection and to allow complete healing.  You can expect to soak your toe at least once or twice a day for three or four weeks following the procedure.  You will also need to apply an antibiotic cream and keep the open wound covered with a light bandage for the first couple of weeks.  Your doctor may also prescribe an oral antibiotic.

How can I prevent ingrown toenails?

One important step you can take to prevent ingrown toenails is to wear properly-sized shoes, socks and stockings that are large enough to accommodate your feet without putting pressure on your toes.  You should also take care to trim your toenails on a regular basis, following the shape of your toe.  Cutting straight across works for many people, but for others, this may actually cause an ingrown nail.  Your nail should be trimmed to follow the shape of your toe.  Ask your podiatrist to advise you on the proper shape for your nails.  Another important consideration is proper foot hygiene.  Bacteria loves to grow in warm moist places, such as shoes.  It is a good practice to alternate your shoes, allowing time for them to dry and to air before wearing them again.  You should change your socks daily, or more than once a day if your feet sweat heavily.

The doctors of Ashton Podiatry are well-versed in the treatment and prevention of ingrown toenails.  If you think you have an ingrown toenail, especially if you think it may be infected, we will be happy to schedule an appointment for you to see one of our doctors for evaluation and treatment.