Ouch! My Toenails Hurt: Ingrown Toenails

Ingrown toenails are a common foot problem and can be excruciatingly painful.  An ingrown toenail forms when one side of the nail grows down into the skin of the toe.  They often present with pain, redness, swelling and occasionally infection.  Ingrown toenails can occur on any toe; however, the big toe is the most common. 

Ingrown nails can be caused by poorly fitting shoes, toenail injury, improper toenail trimming or genetic predisposition.  Home treatment is generally discouraged, especially if you notice any signs of infection or have a medical condition that compromises the health of your feet (e.g. Diabetes, peripheral nerve damage, or poor circulation).   However, if there are no signs of infection and you do not have one of the above medical conditions you may soak the affected foot in warm water with Epsom salts and gently massage the area.  This will decrease inflammation and possibly facilitate healing. 

You should contact our office immediately if home therapy doesn’t seem to be helping, you notice any signs of infection (excessive redness, warmth and/or drainage), or you have one of the medical conditions mentioned above.  It is important to treat an ingrown toenail quickly in order to prevent more serious complications.  Our doctors will diagnose the ingrown toenail and remove the part of the nail protruding into the skin.  Topical and/or oral antibiotics may be prescribed, especially if there is an infection.  If ingrown toenails are a chronic problem for you, a similar procedure can be done to permanently prevent the regrowth of that part of the toenail.  Recovery from both procedures is fast and easy. 

Employing the following habits can decrease your risk for developing ingrown toenails:

Clip correctly – use toenail clippers to clip your nails straight across.  Avoid clipping in a “frowny face” pattern.  If the edges of your nails are clipped too short and downwards, they are likely to begin growing into the skin creating an ingrown toenail. 

Don’t crowd – avoid shoes that crowd your toes (e.g. high heels, dress shoes).  The more crowded your toes, the more likely the nail will begin to grown downwards. 

No ripping – if the edge of your toenail becomes loose, don’t rip or tear it off.  Use a clipper to clip the loose edge off.  Ripping can take more nail that necessary and cause an ingrown nail to develop. 

If your or someone you know has a painful ingrown toenail, please call our office and make an appointment with Dr. Jay C. Larson at Sole Foot and Ankle Specialists in Glendale, Arizona. We want you to be pain free and have your toenails and feet feeling better soon. 

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