If the area around one of your toenails is red, swollen and causing you pain, you may have an ingrown toenail. This problem develops when the edge of your toenail grows into the skin around it, which irritates the skin and contributes to your discomfort. Ingrown toenails are a common problem, but you don't have to suffer in silence. Learn more about ingrown toenails so you know what to do next time you have one.
Causes of Ingrown Toenails
Several things can cause the edge of your toenail to grow into the skin around it. One of the most common causes is toenail trauma, which can occur when you stub your toe, drop a heavy object on your toe or wear ill-fitting shoes. When you wear shoes that are too tight or too narrow, they constantly rub against your toes, causing toenail trauma and other foot problems. The way you cut your toenails can also increase your risk for developing an ingrown toenail. You should cut your toenails straight across and be careful not to cut them too short. If you cut them at an angle, or you cut off too much of the nail, the edge of the nail may grow into the surrounding skin.
If your ingrown toenail causes minor irritation and redness, you should be able to treat it at home. Soaking the toe in warm water reduces discomfort by reducing swelling around the ingrown toenail. If you are concerned about developing an infection, apply topical antibiotic ointment to the nail and surrounding skin to kill bacteria. After you apply the ointment, put a bandage around the toe to keep it clean and prevent infection. Buying new shoes that fit properly and do not rub your toes can relieve discomfort and prevent you from getting ingrown toenails in the future.
Medical Ingrown Toenails Treatment
You may need to see a podiatrist, a doctor who specializes in diagnosing and treating foot problems, if your ingrown toenail does not get better with home care. If the skin around the toenail gets redder, starts to ooze pus or emits a foul odor, your podiatrist may order oral antibiotics to clear up the infection. Partial removal of the nail may be necessary if other treatments do not work. During the nail-removal procedure, your doctor will numb the area around the ingrown toenail and use special tools to make a cut in the nail. Once the cut is made, your podiatrist will remove the part of the nail that is causing the infection. After this procedure, it is important to keep the surgical site clean, so your doctor will apply a bandage to the toe to keep out dirt and bacteria.
Ingrown toenails are uncomfortable, but home remedies can relieve pain and reduce swelling. If at-home treatments don't seem to help, visit a podiatrist, like Paul Greenberg, to receive the appropriate medical treatment.