The Importance of Good Nail Care
You don’t have to be a brain surgeon, or even a foot surgeon, to know when you have an ingrown toenail because it hurts! Ingrown toenails mostly affect the big toe and cause inflammation of the area around the nail. This means your toe may be red, hot, swollen, and painful, with or without pus.
Ingrown toenails are common and can happen to anyone, young or old. Some nails are more likely to grow in than others because of their shape. Toenails that are broad and flat, narrow and involuted (curved), or thickened, have a tendency to grow in. Children are prone to ingrown toenails when they have growth spurts and parents don’t realize their shoes are too small.
Sometimes, ingrown toenails are caused by poor nail care. If nails are cut or torn away at the corners, the skin may be broken or the flesh may grow over the edge of the nail so the free edge of the nail is hidden. Cutting the nail down at the edge increases the chance of leaving a spike of nail which grows into the skin. An infection occurs when bacteria, which breed on the skin’s surface and are present in socks and shoes, invade through a break in the skin.
Prevention is Easy:
- Wear shoes that have room (have a wide, deep toe box)
- Wear socks that are not too tight around the toes
- Wear shoes made predominantly of breathable material like leather
- Wear socks made primarily of natural fibers (cotton, silk, bamboo)
- Limit the use of synthetic shoes and socks and narrow-toed fashion shoes
- Wash your feet often and check your nails
- Trim nails straight across and file sharp corners
Some people need to take more care than others: diabetics and people with a suppressed immune system. If you have one of these medical conditions, you may be more prone to infections or may not feel when a toenail breaks the skin.
If you have an ingrown toenail, you may be able to ease the pain by soaking your foot in warm water with a handful of salt added. Beyond that, it is best to seek treatment from a professional like Toronto-based podiatrist, Sheldon H. Nadal, D.P.M. He can remove the spike and pack sterile gauze underneath the nail edge. If the problem reoccurs, he may recommend surgery to remove a piece of nail and treat the nail bed so regrowth does not occur.