Foot problems are extremely common, which isn’t surprising when you think about all the work feet do on a regular basis—not to mention all the ways people mistreat their feet, such as by wearing bad shoes. In fact, around 75% of Canadians will have foot health problems of some kind during their lives.
One of the more common types of foot problems is an ingrown toenail; around 20% of patients who go to their general physicians with foot problems actually have ingrown toenails. Ingrown toenails are most common in males aged 15 to 40, but anyone can get them. Fortunately, they’re very easy to manage if you have a bit of basic information. Here’s what you need to know about ingrown toenails and ingrown nail treatment:
What an Ingrown Toenail Actually Is
An ingrown toenail occurs when the corner of the nail starts to dig into the flesh of the toe—typically the big toe—and the tissue begins to actually grow around and over it. Ingrown toenails are often thought to be caused by wearing shoes that crowd the toes (such as pointy-toed high heels or shoes that are too small), by injuries to the toes, or by cutting the toenails too short. People who have unusually curved toenails may also be at higher risk for ingrown toenails.
At-Home Ingrown Nail Treatments
If you notice that your toenail is starting to dig into your toe, you can be proactive about treating the problem at home and keeping it from escalating. Try soaking your feet in warm water each day, and using dental floss or placing bits of cotton under the nail to lift it slightly. You can put some antibiotic cream on the toe to fight infection, and wear open-toed shoes to give your toe some space during the healing process.
When it’s Time to go to the Doctor
While ingrown toenails shouldn’t be cause for alarm, you should learn to recognize signs of complications. If the symptoms you’re experiencing go beyond slight redness and tenderness, then it’s probably time to make an appointment with your local podiatrist (foot and ankle doctor), who will be able to remove the ingrown portion of the nail surgically. More specifically, watch out for swelling or any pus draining from the area, both of which indicate infection. You should be even more vigilant if you have diabetes; seemingly minor injuries can very quickly become serious for diabetic patients, so it’s important to do regular self-inspections and see a doctor immediately if anything seems out of the ordinary.