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Plymouth Podiatry - Located in Plymouth, MA 02360, Phone: (508) 747-1973 and Taunton, MA 02780, Phone: (508) 824-9571

Ingrown Toenails – Prevention and Treatment Tips

Have you ever experienced the discomfort of an ingrown toenail? It’s a common and often painful foot problem. However, the good news is that understanding why they happen and how to treat them can stop them from recurring and make daily life more enjoyable.

What Are Ingrown Toenails?

Ingrown toenails happen when your toenail edge grows into the skin surrounding it. This foot problem can lead to pain, swelling, redness, and sometimes infection, impacting productivity and quality of life.

Among the factors that increase the chances of ingrown toenails:

Uneven Nail Trimming: Cutting your toenails too short or rounding the edges can cause new nail growth into the surrounding skin.

Tight Footwear: Wearing shoes that pinch or apply excessive pressure on the toes can force improper nail growth.

Foot Injury: If your foot is injured, any toe trauma can change how the nail grows.

Genetics: Some people are more susceptible to ingrown toenails due to nail shape and thickness.

How to Prevent Ingrown Toenails

Are you interested in avoiding the pain and discomfort of ingrown toenails? Here are some proactive approaches to keep your feet happy and your toenails healthy. Adopting these habits can significantly reduce the risk of ingrown toenails.

Healthy Nail Trimming Habits

When you clip your toenails, follow these tips:

  • Use clippers designed for toenails. Toenail clippers have straight blades, not curved ones like fingernail clippers.
  • Cut nails straight across.
  • Avoid rounding the corners.
  • When clipping, try to keep 1-2 millimeters of toenail length. Avoid clipping them too short.

Choose the Right Footwear

After you’ve mastered the best habits for clipping your toenails, the next important factor is your footwear. Your shoes support your feet all day, so choose your footwear wisely! Here is some helpful advice:

  • Wear well-fitting shoes that have enough toe box room.
  • Always wear clean socks or stockings.
  • Avoid tight shoes and high heels for long periods.

Protect Your Feet

In addition to wearing well-fitting shoes, take other precautions to protect your feet, such as:

  • Wear protective footwear (such as steel-toed boots) for heavy-duty work tasks.
  • Rotate several pairs of shoes to avoid excessive wear.

The Basics Of Foot Hygiene

Maintaining good foot hygiene is essential in ingrown toenail prevention. When clean and dry, feet are less susceptible to common foot problems like fungal infections or other issues that can lead to painful, ingrown nails; follow these tips:

  • Wash your feet regularly.
  • Avoid going barefoot in locker rooms, pool decks, or other public areas.
  • Always dry your feet thoroughly to prevent fungal infections.

Identifying Ingrown Toenails Early

Noting early signs of an ingrown toenail can help you treat it before it worsens. Look out for:

  • Tenderness or pain on one or both sides of the impacted nail.
  • Redness and swelling around the nail.
  • Signs of infection like pus, inflammation, or redness.

DIY Treatment for Ingrown Toenails

The good news is that if you identify an ingrown toenail early, you can often treat it at home by following these simple steps:

Soak Your Feet: Submerge your feet in warm water for 15-20 minutes daily to reduce swelling and relieve tenderness.

Gently Lift the Nail: Gently lift the nail’s edge of the surrounding skin after soaking.

Apply Antibiotic Ointment: Apply an OTC antibiotic ointment to the irritated area. Doing so can prevent infection and speed up the healing process.

Wear Comfortable Footwear: Choose open-toed shoes or sandals to reduce pressure on the affected toe.

Pain Relief: If needed, take over-the-counter pain relievers to manage discomfort.

Potential Dangers of Ingrown Toenails

Ignoring an ingrown toenail can lead to complications beyond pain and discomfort, with infections among the most common.

When your nail breaks the skin, it creates an opening for bacteria to enter the wound. Redness, swelling, and pus indicate infection. When untreated, the infection can spread to surrounding tissue and, in severe cases, reach as deeply as the bone. This condition, known as osteomyelitis, requires prompt medical attention.

Chronic ingrown toenails can cause lasting damage to the nail and nail bed. Repeated injuries and infections can lead to abnormal nail growth and persistent pain.

The risks increase for people diagnosed with autoimmune diseases or diabetes. Poor circulation and longer healing times can turn a minor issue into a serious health threat, including the potential for foot ulcers and gangrene.

If you have an ingrown toenail, take preventive measures and seek early treatment. If you experience severe pain or have underlying health conditions, consult a podiatrist.

When to See a Podiatrist

Sometimes, home treatments aren’t enough, and professional care is needed. It’s time to consult a podiatrist if:

  • You notice severe pain, swelling, or signs of infection.
  • The ingrown toenail keeps coming back.
  • You have diabetes or other health conditions affecting your feet.

Frequently Asked Questions About Ingrown Toenails

Q: How long does it take for an ingrown toenail to heal?
A: Mild cases can heal in a few days with proper care. The healing process could take longer if an infection develops or professional treatment is needed.

Q: Can I prevent ingrown toenails by wearing specific types of socks?
A: While the socks you choose may not directly impact whether you get ingrown toenails, choosing moisture-wicking socks and well-fitting shoes reduces pressure and keeps your feet dry.

Q: What should I do if my child has an ingrown toenail?
A: Follow the same home treatment steps above, and be extra gentle. See a podiatrist if the condition does not improve or you notice signs of infection.

Get Help With Foot Problems In Massachusetts

Whether you have ingrown toenails, bunions, flat arches, or other painful foot conditions, Plymouth Podiatry offers expert foot care to help you walk comfortably again.

We now accept new and returning patients at our Plymouth and Raynham offices. Contact us today to schedule an appointment.

Don’t let ingrown toenails affect your stride! Our team is here to help you stay in the game!