As a commonplace condition with many causes and risk factors, ingrown toenails are a regular nuisance for many. They affect everyone, from young children to seniors.
What Is an Ingrown Toenail?
A toenail is “ingrown” when the corner or edge of the nail begins to burrow into the surrounding skin as it grows. If not treated immediately, it leads to irritation, redness, and pain. You can visibly identify an ingrown toenail by its shape. The toenail will begin to curve down from the tip of your toe and grow directly into the toe tip or side of the toe.
Causes of Ingrown Toenails
One of the reasons ingrown toenails are so common is because they have many causes. Typically, the usual culprits include:
- Genetics. Some people just have an elevated risk due to family history, especially if their toenails are naturally curved.
- Tight shoes. If your shoes are too tight or do not fit your feet well, they can press on the toenails and force them downward.
- Sudden trauma. Dropping an object on your foot or accidentally banging it into a hard surface can cause ingrown toenails.
- Repetitive trauma. Regular, repeated activities like running or kicking in sports can cause toenails to become ingrown.
- Ceasing to trim toenails. If you allow your toenails to get too long, they are at risk of becoming ingrown as daily shoe and activity pressure pushes them down.
- Trimming too short. If you trim your nails too short, you can also cause ingrown toenails as it encourages the skin to fold over the nail.
- Physical deformities. Foot or toe deformities like bunions or hammertoes can place undue pressure on the toenail edge and cause it to become ingrown.
Signs and Symptoms
You will likely feel an ingrown toenail before you visibly see it. Pain and tenderness are very common and can be uncomfortable enough to affect daily activities. Other symptoms include:
- Inflamed skin
- Warm to the touch
If you have an ingrown toenail, the first step is to wash and dry the toe and then try to cut the nail away from the skin with a clean pair of nail clippers. You might see an imprint on the skin for a while where the nail was pressing against it. If you successfully return your nail to a healthy shape and length away from the skin, you should be able to carry on with no further intervention.
If you are unable to remove the ingrown toenail, then you will need to visit a podiatrist. It’s a good idea to make a podiatry appointment if:
- You see signs of infection such as pus or odor
- The nail is too embedded or painful to remove
- You successfully remove the ingrown toenail, but there is a visible injury to the area
- Simple daily activities like walking are painful and/or impossible
A podiatrist will resolve the painful ingrown toenail by removing a portion of the toenail, sometimes removing it entirely. He can also numb the area and use more accurate tools than a person would typically have at home.
At InStride Carolina Podiatry Group, our doctors can easily remove even severely ingrown toenails in the office. Call us today to find the relief you need from this common and painful issue.