If you trim your toenails too short, particularly on the sides of your big toes, you may set the stage for an ingrown toenail, a common disorder. Like many people, when you trim your toenails, you may taper the corners so that the nail curves with the shape of your toe. But this technique may encourage your toenail to grow into the skin of your toe. The sides of the nail curl down and dig into your skin. An ingrown toenail may also happen if you wear shoes that are too tight or too short. Any of your toenails can get ingrown, but it's most likely with your big toes.
When you first have an ingrown toenail, it may be hard, swollen and tender. Later, it may get red and infected, and feel very sore. You may see pus drain from it. Finally, your skin may start to grow over the ingrown toenail.
To treat an infected ingrown toenail, soak your foot in warm, soapy water several times each day. If your infection is severe, your doctor may prescribe a course of antibiotics. Learn how to trim your toenails properly. Wear clean socks and open-toed shoes, such as sandals.
If you are in a lot of pain and/or the infection keeps coming back, your doctor may remove part of your ingrown toenail. Your toe is injected with an anesthetic and your doctor will cut away the ingrown part of the toenail, taking care not to disturb the nail bed. It may take up to 6 months for your nail to re-grow.
Ingrown toenails often recur. If you have a chronic problem with an ingrown toenail, your doctor may recommend a different procedure in which the ingrown toenail is permanently removed.
To prevent ingrown nails, one should cut the toenails straight across and avoid digging into the corners. Use toenail clippers to trim the nail completely and avoid ripping or tearing the nail. The length of your toenail should extend out past your skin. The top of each nail should form a straight line across, level with the top of your toe. Some additional guidelines for preventing ingrown toenails include:
- Don't pick at your toenails or tear them off.
- Make sure your shoes and socks are not too tight.
- Keep your feet clean at all times.
WHEN TO CALL NORTHERN ILLINOIS FOOT & ANKLE SPECIALISTS
If you notice redness, swelling, increased pain, purulent drainage or proud flesh developing call us to have the nail evaluated. Delays in treatment can lead to chronic inflammation which can disfigure the toe and cause permanent changes in the way the nails grow. This may lead to chronic ingrown nails.
If you are diabetic or have peripheral vascular disease, you need to be seen as soon as possible, and no self treatment should be attempted.
The doctors at Northern Illinois Foot & Ankle Specialsts are a phone call away! Schedule your appointment by calling 847.639.5800