Ingrown toenails, scientifically known as onychocryptosis, are a common condition that occurs when the skin of one or both sides of a nail grows over the edges of the nail or when the nail itself grows into the skin. This condition is usually very painful and can lead to an infection. Some people may suffer from:
- Chronic or repeated episodes of irritation
- Uncomfortable sensations of inflammation
- Severe swelling and pain of the affected area
Other people may suffer only now and then. However, symptoms can be the same – if not more severe. Ingrown toenails most commonly occur on the big toe; although the other toes are not exempt from being ingrown as well.
There are many causes for ingrown toenails. However, incorrectly cutting the toenail, causing it to regrow into the skin, is the most common cause. Therefore, to prevent your toenails from becoming ingrown, you should cut the toenails straight across, keeping the corners square. Avoid rounding or cutting deep into the corners of the toenails.
Trauma, like stubbing a toe or any other type of injury to a toe, can cause a piece of the nail to be jammed into the skin, resulting in an ingrown nail problem. Trauma caused by a repeated behavior, such as running or other sports, can also cause this condition.
Tight hosiery, or shoes with a narrow toe box, can be another cause for ingrown toenails – as well as a reason for the condition to worsen. Also, other conditions, such as overlapping toes, hammertoes, claw toes, and bunions and bunionettes, may cause ingrown toenails due to the deformities these conditions create.
Treatment and Prevention
Ingrown toenails should be treated as soon as they are recognized. In many cases, people with uninfected ingrown nails may obtain relief by trimming the overgrown skin using sterile cuticle scissors or clippers; soaking the foot in warm salt water; applying a mild antiseptic solution to the area; and protecting the area from germs by applying a clean bandage. Avoid tight hosiery and footwear and excessive activity during the healing process. Watch for signs of infection such as:
- Severe pain
- Excessive inflammation
- Discharge in the area
If an infection occurs, seek treatment from your doctor for your ingrown toenail to avoid more serious complications.
You can prevent ingrown toenails from occurring by properly trimming the toenail straight across with clippers. Avoid hosiery and footwear that are too tight, creating pressure on the toes. Feet are constantly changing as we age. Have your shoe fit checked regularly. Remember the size on the measuring device is only a reference. Mass manufactured shoes are NOT all created equal. Refer to the Shoe Fitting Reference Guide for proper guidelines on how to best fit your shoes. Shoes that are fitted correctly and coupled with an ezWalker® Custom Performance Orthotic can be one of the best ways to treat and avoid ingrown toenails.
If you follow these guidelines and pain from an ingrown toenail persists or you experience symptoms of an infection, you must seek the counsel of a physician for proper diagnosis and treatment.