What causes ingrown toenails and what can I do to help?

What causes ingrown toenails? 

Ingrown toenails occur when the edges or sides of your toenail grows into the skin next to the toe nail.  

Ingrown toenails can be painful, swollen and red. In more advanced cases they may present with pus or overgrowth of sensitive skin around the toe (hypergranulation tissue). 

There are many different reasons as to why someone may get an ingrown toenail and this needs to be considered to provide the best management strategy with long term results. 

Some contributing factors that may promote an ingrown toenail include: 

  • Cutting the toenail in a way that leaves a sharp edge, or breaks the skin next to the toenail. 
  • The shape of your toenail. Nails that are curved or irregular.
  • Footwear that places a lot of pressure on the toes. Shoes that are too tight or too loose.
  • A toenail injury, including stubbing your toe, dropping something heavy on your foot, or kicking a ball or an object repeatedly.
  • Posture. Sometimes the shape or position of a person’s foot.
  • Gait. The way a person walks can promote pressure on the side of the toenail.
  • Exposure to wet or dirty environments can promote infection and lead to an ingrown toenail.
  • Occupation or recreation. Using your feet repetitively and extensively during athletic or work. Activities in which you repeatedly kick an object or put pressure on your feet for long periods. These activities may include: ballet, football, kickboxing, soccer.

What can I do about an ingrown toenail? 

There are some useful strategies to reduce pain and encourage resolution of an ingrown toenail that you should try to relieve pain and solve the problem. 

  • Prevent wearing shoes that cause pain or increase pressure on the offending toenail. 
  • Salt water soak your feet for 5-10 minutes twice per day. 
  • Apply antiseptic over the counter treatments to the area (such as betadine liquid). 
  • Take any pain relief medication if needed (such as panadol). 

If the toenail does not respond to these strategies or an infection (signs of infection are: red, swollen, painful tissue or signs of pus) occurs please contact your podiatrist as you may require a simple and easy procedure to relieve the toe from the offending nail portion.  

Preventing ingrown toenails

Ingrown toenails can be prevented by:

  • Cutting your toenails straight across (Do not cut down the sides of the toenails). 
  • Avoid cutting toenails too short.
  • Wear proper fitting shoes, socks, and tights.
  • Wear steel-capped boots if you work in manual labour environments.
  • If your toenails are curved, broken or thick, a procedure may be necessary to treat and prevent ingrown nails.

How can I find out more about treatment for ingrown toenails? We love helping people who are experiencing pain from ingrown toenails and want to get back to living the way they want to because it’s so easy to help. We welcome the opportunity to earn your trust and provide you with an exceptional health care experience. So please give us a call on (03) 52981147 or send us an email to info@proactivehm.com.au. We’d love to help!

Written by:
Daniel Monteleone
Podiatrist, Strength & Conditioning Coach

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