If you’ve ever had an ingrown toenail, you will know that they can be very painful. They can also cause nasty complications, including infection in the bone of your toe and ulcers. Fortunately, they can be treated. So, if you suspect that you have an ingrown toenail, here is what you need to do.
What Are Ingrown Toenails?
Ingrown or ingrowing toenails occur when the edges or corners of your toenails grow into the skin around the nail. This is most likely to happen to your big toe. You might notice:
- Skin next to the nail becoming swollen and tender
- Pain when you place pressure on the toe
- Fluid building up around the toe
These are early stage symptoms and if you notice them, you should seek treatment. If you leave them, the toe may get infected and this can cause symptoms such as:
What Are The Treatment Options For An Ingrown Toenail?
It is possible to treat an ingrown toenail at home. You can do this by soaking your feet in warm, salty water for 15-20 minutes four times a day – and ensuring that your feet are kept dry for the rest of the time. If the symptoms don’t alleviate after a few days – or if they worsen – you should make an appointment with a podiatrist.
The podiatrist will be able to assess the severity of your ingrown toenail and recommend treatment options. These will depend on the cause of your ingrown toenail.
If you need surgery, this could be in the form of a partial or full nail removal. With a partial nail removal, only the piece of nail that is digging into your skin is removed. Full nail removal may be required if your ingrown toenail is caused by thickening.
After surgery is complete, your podiatrist will tell you what you need to do to care for your nail and avoid infection. It is important to follow these instructions carefully.
What Can I Do To Avoid Getting Ingrown Toenails?
In order to avoid getting ingrown toenails, you can:
- Trim your toenails straight across, making sure that the edges do not curve in.
- Make sure that you don’t cut your toenails too short.
- Wear properly fitting shoes and socks.
There are several very practical lifestyle changes you can make that will reduce your risk of developing an ingrowing nail or having one recur.
The first thing to consider is your shoes. Make sure your shoes fit you properly. They should allow enough room for you to wiggle your toes around without being smushed together. When your shoes don’t fit – particularly if they’re very tight around the toes – you’ll find you’re far more likely to develop ingrowing nails.
Keeping your nails properly trimmed, while avoiding cutting your nail on a diagonal, or too short will also help. Always trip your nails straight across. This prevents them growing improperly into your nail bed. You’ll need to be particularly careful about this if you’re diabetic.
How To Tell If Your Ingrown Toenail Is Infected
It’s not unusual for an ingrown toenail to become infected, particularly if the nail pierces your skin and causes an open wound. Ingrown toenails can also lead to debris becoming embedded in your nail bed, and issues with your cuticles, all of which can lead to infection.
You can usually tell very easily if an ingrown toenail has become infected. If your nail is bleeding, this is often an early sign of infection. You may also notice that the nail is oozing, or that there is a build up of fluid around the affected nail. Heat or warmth around your nail bed is also a sign of infection, as is overgrown or inflamed tissues around your toenail’s edges.
Swelling, throbbing, and pain in and around your toe as well as pressure under the toenail or hardening and redness around it are also signs of an infection. More acute symptoms include an abscess that has filled with puss around the jagged edge of your nail where it punctures the skin, or a foul smell. Thick, yellowing or cracked nails can also indicate a fungal nail infection.
For more information check out our infected ingrown toenail guide.
What Should I Do If I Have Concerns?
If you are worried that you might have an ingrown toenail, or if you have an ingrown toenail that is not healing properly, you should make an appointment with a podiatrist. They will be able to treat your foot and give you advice to avoid this occurring again in the future.
At Northwich Foot Clinic, we are experts at treating ingrown toenails. You can book an appointment online. We’re easily accessible from across the North West, and we look forward to helping you.