Ingrown nails occur when the edges or corners of the nails grow into the skin next to the nail. These cases usually occur in the big fingers and toes.
This nail problem can be treated at home, although it is true that they can cause complications and require medical treatment. The risk of complications appears to be higher if you have diabetes or other conditions that cause poor circulation.
Causes of ingrown toenails
This problem occurs in both men and women, although it can be more common in people with sweaty feet , such as teenagers. Older people may also be at higher risk because toenails thicken with age.
However, there are other factors that can cause an ingrown toenail, such as:
- Cutting the toenails incorrectly (cut straight, as tilting the sides of the nail can cause the nail to grow into the skin)
- Curved and irregular toenails
- Footwear that puts a lot of pressure on the big toes, such as socks and stockings that are too tight, or shoes that are too tight, narrow, or flat on the feet
- Toenail injury, including stubbing your toe, dropping something heavy on your foot, or repeatedly kicking a ball
- Bad posture
- Inadequate foot hygiene, such as not keeping feet clean or dry
- Genetic predisposition
Overuse of your feet during sports activities can make you especially prone to ingrown toenails. Activities where you repeatedly kick an object or put pressure on your feet for long periods of time can damage toenails and increase the risk of ingrown toenails. These activities can be ballet, soccer, kickboxing, and soccer .
These types of problems can be painful and usually get worse in stages. Symptoms in the early stages include having the skin next to the nail that is tender, swollen, or hard, pain when pressure is put on the toe, or fluid buildup around the toe.
If your toe becomes infected, symptoms can include red and swollen skin, pain, bleeding, oozing pus, or excessive skin growth around the toe.
What are the best treatments?
Most likely, a doctor will diagnose the toe with a physical exam. If your toe appears infected, you may need an X-ray to show how deep the nail has grown into the skin. An X-ray can also reveal if your ingrown toenail was caused by an injury.
Ingrown toenails that are not infected can usually be treated at home. However, if the toenail has pierced the skin or there are any signs of infection, it is recommended to seek medical treatment.
To treat the nail at home, try soaking your feet in warm water for about 15-20 minutes three to four times a day. Brush the skin away from the edge of the toenail with a cotton ball soaked in olive oil and use over-the-counter pain relievers such as acetaminophen.
You can also apply a topical antibiotic, such as polymyxin and neomycin or a steroid cream, to prevent infection. Try home treatments for a few days, and if the pain gets worse or you find it difficult to walk or do other activities because of the nail, see a doctor.
Ingrown toenail remedies
To prevent infection, it is important to treat ingrown toenails as soon as they appear. Mild cases may require minor treatment with home remedies, such as the ones we propose below:
- Soak in warm soapy water. Soaking the affected foot can help reduce swelling and relieve pain. You can soak your foot in warm soapy water three times a day for up to 20 minutes at a time. Adding Epsom salts to water can provide additional relief.
- Soak in apple cider vinegar . Apple cider vinegar is a popular remedy for just about everything these days, including ingrown toenails. It is believed to have antiseptic, anti-inflammatory, and analgesic abilities, although scientific evidence is limited at best. To test this remedy, prepare a bowl of warm water combined with 1/4 cup of apple cider vinegar. Soak the affected foot for up to 20 minutes a day. Dry your foot thoroughly after soaking it.
- Wrap the area in dental floss or cotton. It is recommended to tuck small pieces of cotton or wax floss under the edge of an ingrown toenail to stimulate proper nail growth.
- Wear comfortable shoes and socks . Shoes and socks that are too tight can clutter your toes. This is considered one of the main causes of ingrown toenails. To help prevent an ingrown toenail from developing or getting worse, wear shoes and socks or socks that fit well but still leave plenty of room at the base of your toes. During the healing process, avoid shoes or wear sandals as much as possible to limit pressure on your toenails.
- Wear a finger guard . A finger guard provides a buffer barrier for ingrown toenails. Finger guards are available as rings that fit around the affected area or as a cover for the entire finger.
If left untreated, an ingrown toenail infection can cause an infection in the finger bone. A toenail infection can also lead to foot ulcers or open sores and loss of blood flow to the infected area.
A foot infection can be more serious if you have diabetes . Even a small cut, scrape, or ingrown toenail can quickly become infected due to lack of blood flow and nerve sensitivity.
If you have a genetic predisposition to ingrown toenails, they may keep reappearing or appear on multiple fingers at once. Quality of life can be affected by pain, infections, and other painful foot problems that require multiple treatments or surgeries. In this case, a doctor may recommend a partial or complete matricoectomy to remove the toenails that cause chronic pain.