Ingrown Toenails: Causes and Coping Strategies

An ingrown toenail doesn’t sound like a big deal – until you get one.  You may be surprised that a seemingly minor condition can be quite so painful.  It may feel like a major problem, but we promise you that it isn’t.  There are some things that you can do to cope with your ingrown toenail and prevent it from reoccurring in the future.  Read on to learn more about causes and coping strategies for ingrown toenails.

Overview of Ingrown Toenails

ingrown toenailAn ingrown toenail is a painful condition in which the toenail grows into the skin or becomes lodged in the skin surrounding the edge of the toenail.  The area can become red, inflamed, and swollen.  There may be an accumulation of pus or yellow drainage.  The skin may grow over or callus in an attempt to protect the area.  The ingrown toenail can become infected if not treated.  Ingrown toenails commonly occur in adults, although they are unusual in children.

Causes of Ingrown Toenails

If you tend to get ingrown toenails, you should know that there are a variety of factors that cause or contribute to their development.  These factors include the following:

  1. Wearing tight-fitting shoes can cause ingrown toenails.  Tight-fitting shoes, especially high heels, squeeze the toes together in an unnatural way.  As a result, the nail can grow abnormally, and ingrown toenails can develop.  Opt for comfortable shoes that have plenty of space in the toe box and allow you to wiggle your toes freely.
  2. Trimming your toenails incorrectly can cause ingrown toenails.  When you trim your toenails, you should always cut them straight across.  Don’t cut them at an angle or round the edges of the nail.  Doing so can cause the edges of the nail to grow into the skin.
  3. Nail fungus can cause the toenail to widen or thicken, which can lead to ingrown toenails.  If you suspect that you may have a fungal infection of the toenails, see your doctor or podiatrist for diagnosis and treatment.  Resolving the fungal infection can help to prevent ingrown toenails.
  4. An injury to the toe or repetitive strain on the toe can lead to ingrown toenails.  If you have injured your toe, you may develop an ingrown toenail as a side effect.  If you engage in an activity such as soccer, in which you are repeatedly putting stress on the toe, you are more likely to develop ingrown toenails.
  5. The tendency to develop ingrown toenails can run in the family.  If other members of your family get ingrown toenails, you are more likely to get them, too.  Due to genetic factors, your nails may simply be more rounded than normal, increasing your odds of getting ingrown toenails.

Coping with Ingrown Toenails

  1. It may help to soak your foot in Epsom salts and warm water for about 15-20 minutes at a time, and repeat this three to four times per day. (Note: See your doctor or pharmacist for advice on this first)
  2. Press the edge of the skin away from the ingrown toenail using a cotton swab.
  3. Pull the toenail away from the inflamed skin by placing a piece of dental floss between the nail and the skin.
  4. Apply antibiotic ointment to the area and wrap the toe in a loose bandage to protect the toe and keep the ointment from smearing.

If you frequently get ingrown toenails, your shoes may be the problem.  Visit Foot Solutions, where we have a large selection of comfortable shoes.  We will measure your feet and make sure that you are wearing the right size.  Then we can help you find shoes that fit comfortably and have a spacious toe box to help you prevent ingrown toenails.