Ingrown Toenails: Causes, Symptoms and Treatment
Ingrown toenails or onychocryptosis is the redness and swelling of a person’s big toe. It occurs when the sides of the nail grow into the skin.
As the sides or corners of the nails continue to grow and curl downward, they pierce the soft tissues of the flesh around the nails. Thus, bringing pain and discomfort to our feet.
Two of the most common causes of ingrown are the incorrect trimming of toenails and wearing ill-fitting footwear.
You can treat ingrown toenails with home remedies as long as the condition is in the early stage. Otherwise, if there is already an infection or if you have diabetes or vascular disease (poor circulation) — you should contact your podiatrist as soon as possible.
Read on to know more about ingrown toenail causes, symptoms, treatment and overall foot care.
How to Know the Symptoms, Causes and Treatment of Ingrown Toenail
Image source: Wikipedia
Signs and Symptoms of Ingrown Toenails
The difference between ingrown toenails and other foot problems.
- Foot fungus, such as Athlete’s Foot, can cause discolouration and malformation of the toenails. You may notice the presence of white spots on the nails or yellowish debris below your toenail. Sometimes, a toenail appears irregular in shape and chalky.
- Psoriasis and Eczema are skin disorders that can disfigure your nails. Often, the nails begin to peel or split. Also, your toenail may start to ripple or become thicker.
- Your toenails can turn black due to trauma, Melanoma or Skin Cancer.
- Onychomycosis is a nail fungal infection that can cause abnormal toenail growth, which can become ingrown.
The early stage of ingrown toenail
- The surrounding skin of the toenail becomes reddened, hardened, swollen and painful.
- The swollen part may feel warm to the touch.
- Pressure applied to the toe causes pain. Children limping can be a sign of ingrown toenails as they try to avoid putting pressure on the affected toes.
The later stage
- Overgrowth of skin and tissue appear around the nail.
- Yellow-coloured drainage starts to appear. This is not yet an infection but it’s our body’s response to the trauma or irritation as nails grow deeper and pierce the soft tissues under the skin.
The development of infection
- The swelling and redness worsen.
- The yellowish drainage now contains pus.
- Although not common, fever may develop due to the infection.
One of the most common causes of ingrown in toenails is cutting a nail too short and cutting the corners to curve in. This incorrect way of trimming encourages the edge of the nails to grow deeper into the skin.
Image source: Orthoinfo
The proper way of trimming the nails is to cut straight across and just enough not to expose the nail bed.
Frequent jamming or stubbing of the toes and accidental dropping of something on the toes can cause in the development of ingrown.
Another common cause of ingrown toenails is wearing ill-fitting shoes. Repeated pressure brought about by activities such as soccer, running or ballet while wearing ill-fitting shoes can cause ingrown in the toes to develop.
Young adults and teens who participate in sports or ballet classes are prone to ingrown since they experience growth spurts and body changes at some point in their lives. They outgrow their shoes quickly without noticing it and so they keep on wearing ill-fitting footwear for a while.
There’s nothing wrong with having a pedicure. Just be cautious about how the nail technician trims your toenails. Keep in mind that incorrect trimming leads to the development of ingrown in the toenails.
The trait of developing toenail ingrown is passed on from parents and on to their children.
The early stages of onychocryptosis can be treated at home. And sometimes, you just need the nails to grow out. Anyway, here are…
Common Non-surgical Treatment or Home Remedies
Always wear comfortable socks and shoes
Remember, the leading cause of ingrown on the toes is wearing tight-fitting shoes and socks. Therefore, avoid shoes and socks that are too tight to prevent crowding the toes. Instead, wear shoes that fit but also leaves adequate space for your toes.
Soak your affected toes in warm water
Soaking your affected toes in warm water can help ease the pain and reduce the swelling. Do this 3 times a day with a duration of 20 minutes. You can add Castile soap and Epsom salt in the water for an extra relief.
Apply antiseptic ointments
After 20 minutes of soaking in warm water, apply an antiseptic ointment and then bandage the affected area. Podiatrist recommend antiseptic ointments such as Betadine or Savlon n
The following are common home remedies but they come with disadvantages.
Using dental floss or cotton under the edge of the nails
This is a home remedy suggested by the Mayo Clinic. However, other medical groups do not agree with this advice since it can only cause more pain and more bacteria to thrive into the infected area.
Over-the-counter pain relievers and oral antibiotics
Over-the-counter pain relievers may work but they come with side effects such as diarrhoea, upset stomach and abdominal pain. Likewise, there is no proof that oral antibiotics can improve the condition.
Here are the reasons why your toes need medical treatment from a podiatric surgeon or podiatrist.
- If home remedies didn’t work after a week and signs of infection begin to appear.
- If you have heart or vascular disease, diabetes, suffer from repeated ingrown toenails and a long history of tobacco abuse.
What happens if infected ingrown toenails are left untreated?
A superficial infection called Paronychia can advance into a deeper infection called Cellulitis or tissue infection, which can proceed in a much deeper problem — Osteomyelitis or bone infection.
Seek medical help even if your ingrown toenails are in the early stages
Don’t wait for your foot condition to complicate into a serious infection. Make an appointment at Adelaide Foot and Ankle before it’s too late.