When a toenail curves downward & cuts into skin (usually at the side of the nails), it is known as ingrown toenail. When the edges of a toenail grow into soft tissue of the toe, it causes irritation, pain, redness, swelling & warmth in the toe. If an ingrown nail causes a break in the skin, bacteria may enter & cause an infection around the affected area. It also causes bleeding & a foul order. In most cases, the big toe gets affected on one or both side. However, even if your toe is not painful, a nail that curves downward into the skin can progress into an infection.
It is a common health problem especially in teenagers & young adults. In most cases, self-treatment at home can solve the problem. However professional medical help is advisable, in case you have complicated medical conditions like poor circulation, diabetes & peripheral vascular disease.
Ingrown Toenail Causes
Ingrown toenail may develop due to various reasons.
In most cases, ingrown toenail causes due to activities like kicking or running, which put repeated pressure on the toes. Sometime it develops due to fungal nail infection such as athlete’s foot. Such infections can cause a thickened & widened toenail to develop.
Wearing tight-fitting footwear may also cause your toenail to grow into your skin. So you should avoid wearing tight-fitting shoes & shocks. Wearing tight shoes, high heels & pointed toe shoes compress your toes together & pressure the toenails to pierce into surrounding skin.
Cutting toenail too short or down the sides encourages the surrounding skin to fold over the nail & the nail cuts into the skin. Incorrectly trimming of toenails increase the risk of developing ingrown toenail. Nails should be trimmed straight across, not rounded.
Toenail injury due to falling of an object on toe may also cause ingrown toenail. Stubbing & accidentally ripped nail may also cause the damage.
Poor foot hygiene & excessive sweating increase the risk of ingrown toenail as it makes the skin on your foot soft & moist. As a result, the toenails find it easier to pierce moist skin.
In case you have inherited naturally curved nails, you are more likely to get an ingrown toenail.
An ingrown toenail has an edge or corner that cuts into the skin, causing it to become red, swollen & tender. The ingrown nail may cause bleeding & infection (incase bacteria infects the wound).
Early sign of ingrown nail may include tender, swollen & hard skin adjacent to the toenail.
When ingrown nail cuts into adjacent skin resulting infection, symptoms may include red, swollen & warm skin. It may also cause bleeding, pain & discomfort (whether you are walking, sitting or standing). Sometime it oozes pus which may be smelly.
There are several things you can do to keep your feet healthy & prevent developing ingrown toenail.
It’s advisable to cut your toenail straight across. Don’t cut around the corners to give them rounded appearance. Cutting your toenails correctly will help you to prevent ingrown toenail .The corner of the nail should be visible above the skin. Always cut the nails, don’t tear them. Avoid cutting toenails too short. If you cut your toenails too short, the pressure from your shoes on your toes tissue may direct your nails to grow into skin. You may find it easier to cut toenails after having a shower because they are likely to be softer.
Maintaining good foot hygiene will help you to prevent any foot problems. Keep your feet clean and dry. Let air get to your toes whenever possible.
Avoid tight shoes & socks. Use cotton socks rather than synthetic. Wear Shoes of right length & width to avoid compressing toes. Also avoid wearing short shoes which can put pressure on tip of your toes. Such shoes that put excessive pressure on your toes or compress your toes may cause your nail to grow into surrounding skin. So buy a properly fitted shoe.