Ingrown toenails, where the toenail begins to grow into the skin surrounding it, often begin as nothing but a nuisance. Unfortunately, they can lead to infection if not properly treated. If you take good care of your ingrown toenail at home, however, you may be able to prevent your condition from worsening.
What Causes Ingrown Toenails?
Ingrown toenails are common, and can be caused by everything from trauma to genetic factors. One common risk factor is easily controlled for--have you ever heard that you should cut your toenails straight across, not at an angle? However nice a rounded edge might look for sandal season, cutting your toenail in this way can encourage your nail to grow into the flesh of your toe.
Symptoms and Treatment
Ingrown toenails are characterized by pain, swelling, redness and a feeling of warmth in the affected toe. If the nail digs into the flesh around the nail and causes the skin to break, bacteria can enter, resulting in an infection. The infection can increase the level of pain in the toe and create additional problems.
As long as an infection has not yet set in, caring for an infected toenail is straightforward. You may take an over-the-counter anti-inflammatory for the pain. You can also soak your foot a few times a day, keeping it otherwise nice and dry, and wear comfortable shoes that aren’t too narrow. Of course, if you have a pre-existing condition, such as diabetes, you should see your podiatrist at the first sign of an ingrown toenail. Whatever you do, do not attempt to cut the nail free your own! This can worsen the infection, or create one where there wasn’t one before.
If your ingrown toenail doesn’t improve within a few days, make an appointment with your trusted podiatrist. We may prescribe antibiotics to manage the infection, and outpatient surgery may be necessary to remove the nail.