Ingrown toenails form when our toenails grow into the skin surrounding the nail bed and thus create open wounds. This can occur as a result of a trauma to the toe, to the continuous use of overly tight footwear or congenitally rounded toenails that sink into the toe on either side. Other causes include sweaty feet which can soften the toe and poorly cut nails. Try to avoid cutting your nails too short, or cutting the edges where they might be inclined to sit under the skin.
Symptoms of Ingrown Nails
When the toenail begins to grow into the skin, this can then result in a number of symptoms. The most obvious is pain in the toe which is likely to worsen as pressure is applied. This can also cause swelling, redness and inflammation.
Fluids may build up around the toe (edema) and the toe may bleed or produce pus. Overgrowth of skin can also occur and patients may also be at risk of infection. If you suspect an infection, then you should see a GP.
What to Do About an Ingrown Nail
If you have an ingrown nail, there are a few things you can do to try and reduce the symptoms and even correct the problem. One important tip is to keep your toes clean at all time. When you discover the problem, try applying some antiseptic cream, or bathing your toe in a saline (salt) solution. You should also change your socks regularly. All of this will help to kill off bacteria and avoid an infection.
If you can see where the nail is growing into the skin, then you may find that you have a sharp or jagged piece of nail causing the problem. In this case, removing that piece with some clippers or nail scissors can be helpful. You can also try pushing the skin away from the nail with a cotton bud. Using a small amount of olive oil to soften the skin can also be useful.
You can also try to encourage your toenail to grow over rather than into the skin by placing some cotton wool just underneath the nail at the end and keeping it there. Change the cotton wool at the end of every day until the toenail has grown away from the at-risk area. While this might be a little uncomfortable in the short-term, it can theoretically prevent a large amount of discomfort in the longer term!
Finally, make sure that you wear comfortable shoes with plenty of space for your toes to move around. If your toes are compressed in at the bottom of your shoe, then this will press the nail more closely against the skin, further encouraging it to grow into it. When you’re at home and around the house, keep your toes free and allow some fresh air to get to them.
If you are unable to treat the problem yourself, then your doctor may recommend surgery. This comes in two forms: toenail avulsion and partial toenail avulsion. This means either totally or partially removing the toenail. This will normally be performed under local anesthetic and while it can be painful, it only takes a couple of days for you to recover.