Ingrown toenails are a common problem in adults and teens where the edge of the toenail digs into the skin of the toe and the toenail grows into the flesh of the toe. The condition is painful and can become more painful if left untreated. Infections are common in ingrown toenails, exacerbating an already painful condition.
Ingrown toenails are also called onychocryptosis or unguis incarnatus. The condition can occur in any toe but is most common in the big toe. Men are more likely to get ingrown toenails, though it is common in women, as well. Teens are also susceptible to developing ingrown toenails, although it is not as commonly found in younger children. Individuals in their twenties and thirties are at the highest risk for developing an ingrown toenail.
Ingrown toenails have several causes. Some people are genetically predisposed to ingrown toenails, having a toenail shape or foot bone structure that more easily causes the edge of the toenail to press into the flesh around the nail. The most common causes of ingrown toenails, however, are self-inflicted. Trimming the toenails incorrectly or wearing shoes with insufficient room in the toe box are the most common causes of ingrown toenails.
An ingrown toenail can be caused by cutting the toenail too short or cutting it in a rounded fashion that allows the corners of the toenail to grow into the skin at the side of the nail bed. Cutting toenails straight across in a flat line with the corners left slightly longer than the middle of the toenail is the best way to prevent ingrown toenails from occurring.
An ingrown toenail begins by pressing into the soft tissues surrounding the toenail, most often on the big toe. In the beginning, the toe is sore and the area may be red and inflamed. As the condition progresses, the nail will dig deeper into the flesh, causing increased inflammation. This causes the toes to have even less room in the toe box of the shoe, which can lead to the nail pressing even deeper into the skin of the toe. If left untreated, an ingrown toenail will continue to worsen, as the symptoms increase the cause.
Ingrown Toenails in Children
While children are not as likely to develop ingrown toenails, it is not impossible. And, teens are nearly as likely as adults to develop the condition. When children do develop an ingrown toenail, it is often caused by the nail having been trimmed incorrectly, or by wearing shoes that they’ve outgrown. Shoes that are too tight can push the toes together at the end, causing the flesh of the toes to press up around the nails, allowing the nails to grow into the flesh where they don’t belong.
If a child develops an ingrown toenail, the condition can often be treated at home with warm water soaks and ensuring that the child has shoes that allow plenty of room for the toes to remain in a natural position. If conditions allow, permitting the child to remain barefoot as much as possible can also help the toe heal and prevent further pressing against the injured toe.
Ingrown Toenails in Diabetics
Diabetes is a disease where the body can’t remove glucose from the blood. The hormone insulin is created by the pancreas and used to move sugar from the bloodstream and into the muscles where the body can use it for energy. In diabetic patients, the pancreas fails to create insulin in sufficient quantity to move the insulin out of the blood. The resulting high blood sugar levels can damage the circulation and nervous system of diabetic people, causing major health problems in addition to the diabetic condition.
Diabetes is a common condition. Nearly 10% of the population of the United States is suffering from diabetes at some level. Some people are unaware that they have the disease, as it is in the beginning stages and hasn’t manifest in symptoms, yet. Twenty-five percent of people over the age of 65 have diabetes.
Because of the damage that diabetes can cause to the circulation system and the nervous system, it is extremely important that individuals with diabetes take extra care of their feet and immediately tend to any concerns. One of the potential effects of diabetes is a weakened immune system rendering the body unable to effectively fight off infections. Additionally, the disease often leads to serious problems with the feet.
One common way that diabetics encounter foot problems is due to a damaged nervous system. Weakened nervous systems are not able to effectively convey messages from the feet, leading to an inability for the patient to feel the feet. This also impairs normal sweat secretion and oil production in the feet, leading to an abnormal pressure on the feet during walking and skin problems that often result in sores.
Due to the suppression of the immune response in diabetics, the body is often unable to heal these wounds. If left untreated bacterial infections can lead to gangrene, which may require amputation to ensure that the infection does not spread to other parts of the body.
Any type of foot infection is more serious in diabetics, due to increased healing time and decreased nervous system function. Ingrown toenails may take much longer to heal in a diabetic patient and lead to an increased chance of complications. If you are diabetic and experience frequent ingrown toenails, or if you have an ingrown toenail that won’t seem to heal, schedule an appointment with Dr. Kleis right away. Call (714) 760-4944.
Preventing Ingrown Toenails
There are steps you can take to prevent ingrown toenails from occurring.
Prevent ingrown toenails by trimming your toenails straight across. If you enjoy a pedicure, be sure to tell your pedicurist that you need a straight line edge on your toenails. If you are unable to trim your toenails yourself, have someone help you or visit your podiatrist for assistance in keeping your toenails trimmed.
Don’t keep your toenails too short. Leave a little length on your toenails when you trim them so that the edge of the toenail won’t have an opportunity to dig into the toe around it as it grows out. Keeping your toenails even with the ends of your toes will prevent the pressure from your shoes from forcing the flesh of the toe up around the toenail, giving opportunity for ingrown toenails to get a start.
Wear shoes that offer plenty of room in the toe box. Wearing high heels or shoes that are too narrow for your foot, will force the toes together and give ingrown toenails a chance to start. If you have difficulty finding shoes that don’t cause ingrown toenails, visit Dr. Kleis. He can help you find and purchase shoes made specifically for people with foot problems.
Check your feet often for signs of ingrown toenails. Often, people don’t see the ingrown toenail until damage has been done. Keeping a close eye on your feet will prevent minor problems from becoming worse. This is especially important for individuals with diabetes or other conditions that result in poor circulation.
Home Remedies for Ingrown Toenails
Often, ingrown toenails can be treated at home with hot water soaks and home treatments.
Hot Water Soaks - For a minor ingrown toenail, soaking the foot in hot water and Epsom salts will relieve some of the pain and swelling.
Dental Floss or Cotton Ball Under The Nail - After soaking, please a small bit of dry gauze or waxed dental floss under the toenail to lift the toenail up and prevent it from continuing to press into the skin around the toe.
Antibiotic Ointment - Antibiotic ointment can help prevent infection where the toenail has broken the skin.
Wear Roomy Shoes – Choosing shoes that allow your toes plenty of room to maintain their natural position will help prevent further pressure on the ingrown toenail and permit healing.
Pain Relief – Over the counter pain medications like ibuprofen and acetaminophen are appropriate for pain and inflammation from ingrown toenails.
When to See a Doctor For Ingrown Toenails
If your ingrown toenail is not responding to at-home treatments or is continuing to worsen, you should see a podiatrist. You should also see a podiatrist if you get ingrown toenails on a regular basis and self-care and prevention don’t seem to help. Your podiatrist can treat the ingrown toenail by removing it and treat the damaged tissue that the ingrown toenail has created. If necessary, he can also remove part of the nail and nail bed to prevent the condition from returning.
Ingrown Toenail Q & A
Ingrown toenails are a common condition that occurs when the corner of your nail curves and grows into the surrounding skin. When the nail digs into the skin, the surrounding tissue becomes irritated and inflamed, leading to pain, warmth, and redness that may look like a swollen bump next to your toenail.
If the nail causes the skin to break, bacteria can enter and create an infection. An infected toenail causes increased pain, fluid drainage, and a foul smell.
What causes ingrown toenails?
The most common cause of ingrown toenails is trimming your nails too short because this overly zealous nail-cutting encourages the surrounding skin to fold over the nail. Other possible causes of ingrown toenails include:
- Trauma such as stubbing your toe
- Shoes that are too tight or fit improperly
- Nail problems such as toenail fungus
Additionally, some men and women inherit a greater susceptibility to developing ingrown toenails.
How can you prevent ingrown toenails?
The best method for preventing ingrown toenails is to trim your nails properly. This simple process involves cutting them straight across without making them too short. If you can’t get a fingernail beneath the end of your toenail, they’re too short.
You should also avoid wearing shoes with pointy or narrow toe boxes and never rip the edges of your nails.
How do you diagnose and treat ingrown toenails?
First, Dr. Kleis performs a physical exam and reviews your medical history. If he finds you have an ingrown toenail, he discusses the best treatment options based on the particulars of your case.
Minor ingrown toenails that aren’t infected usually improve with at-home care, such as soaking your foot in room temperature water and gently massaging the side of your nail.
For recurring ingrown nails, a simple 10-minute procedure is performed to prevent the ingrown nail from returning in the future. A small portion of the nail is permanently removed with little or no pain after.
For infected nails, Dr. Kleis may prescribe antibiotics. In severe cases, it may be required to remove the ingrown nail and relieve pain.
Men and women with diabetes or poor circulation should schedule an appointment with Dr. Kleis at the first sign of an ingrown toenail to prevent serious complications.
If you experience redness, swelling, or drainage that may be from an ingrown toenail, call or book an appointment online today.
Ingrown Toenail Treatment Services
Ingrown toenails are a common, but extremely painful condition that may require the assistance of a podiatrist to effectively treat and heal. The most common causes of ingrown toenails are the improper trimming of the toenails, cutting them too close to the nail bed and allowing the surrounding skin to grow up over the nail. Other causes can be stubbing your toe, wearing shoes that fit too tightly and nail fungus. Family history can play a role in ingrown toenails, as well.
Dr. Kleis can diagnose and treat your ingrown toenails and help you develop an individualized treatment plan that will help prevent future ingrown toenails. Patients suffering from diabetes must be especially vigilant in seeking treatment for ingrown toenails, as foot infections in diabetic patients can progress more rapidly and become more serious.