Ingrown toenail: how to recognize and treat it?

Is the edge of your toenail red, swollen, and sore? An ingrown toenail is most likely the cause of your discomfort. Follow these guidelines to deal with the earliest signs and symptoms.

Ingorwn toe nail

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Ingrown toenail: what is it?

An ingrown toenail happens when the edge of your toenail penetrates and grows into the surrounding skin. This problem is frequently affecting the foot toes and most likely the big toe. It is characterized by redness and swelling of the affected area, as well as varying degrees of pain that intensify when you press on it, when you put on shoes, and when you exercise.

If left unchecked, the pain intensifies and becomes permanent. The affected area’s skin turns red and discharges a purulent fluid.

What are the causes of an ingrown toenail?

The ingrown toenail is mainly due to cutting toenails too short and/or too rounded. Always leave a 2 or 3 mm protrusion on the toenail and never cut it entirely. Otherwise, the edge of the nail may be covered by the skin, causing it to press into the dermis.

Other possible causes of an ingrown toenail are excessive sweating, an anomaly in the shape or the thickness of the nail, and deformation in the toe. You should also know that wearing shoes that are too tight can promote the appearance of this type of problem. Certain diseases, such as diabetes, can also be implicated.

Ingrown toenail: what treatments?

1. Soak in warm, soapy water

The first thing to do with an ingrown toenail is to soak the affected foot in warm and soapy water three times a day for up to 15 minutes at a time. Adding Epsom salts to the water may help soften the area affected and bring additional relief.

2. Soak in apple cider vinegar

Apple cider vinegar is a popular folk remedy for practically anything these days, even ingrown toenails. Although scientific data is lacking, it is said to have antibacterial, anti-inflammatory, and pain-relieving properties.

To test this remedy, soak the affected foot for up to 20 minutes daily in a basin of warm water combined with 1/4 cup apple cider vinegar. 

3. Pack the area with a cotton

Place a little piece of cotton under the edge of the ingrown toenail to support proper nail growth. Make sure to soak the cotton in alcohol before application.

If the nail grows correctly after this operation, make sure to cut it straight to prevent it from becoming ingrown again.

4. Wear comfortable shoes and socks

Shoes and socks that are uncomfortably tight can crowd your toes. This is considered to be a major cause of ingrown toenails as we mentioned before. To help prevent an ingrown toenail from developing, wear shoes and socks that fit well but still leave enough space in the toe bed. 

5. See your doctor

If you have tried all the above proposals but you did not see any improvement yet, go see a dermatologist doctor. He will prescribe a local antiseptic and possibly podiatry care to relieve the pain. 

In the case of superinfection, antibiotic treatment may be considered too. However, if all treatments have failed to improve ingrown toenail, partial or full removal of the nail may be required. Using a local anesthetic, the doctor may remove a portion of the nail’s border, the underlying nail bed, or part of the middle growth plate.

Avoid an ingrown toenail

To avoid an ingrown toenail, it is important to take care of your feet on a daily basis. Be sure to cut your toenails regularly and always leave 2 to 3 mm protrusion. It’s better to cut them more often than too short! Also, be sure to cut them with clean and disinfected instruments.

Just cut the nails, not the cuticles. Avoid wearing shoes that are too tight or too closed. Talk to your doctor or pharmacist in case of excessive sweating: there are many effective products to limit humidity.