Foot Pain? What You Need To Know About Ingrown Toenails

Foot pain can be one of the most unbearable types of pain.  You are on your feet a lot during the day and any uncomfortableness can be extremely unpleasant.  Ingrown toenails are one of the most common causes of foot pain.  There are more than three million cases of ingrown toenails each year and those are just the ones reported. 

Ingrown toenails are when your nail grows into the skin tissue of your foot.  It can either be the side of the nail that grows into the side of the toe skin or if your nails have a tendency to curve down your nail can grow into your skin at the top of your toe.   Sometimes ingrown toenails need to be tended to by a physician, but most of the time there are things you can do at home to take care of them.  Most of the time ingrown toenails happen on the big toe, though they can happen on any of your toes.  


Risk Factors

Foot care and grooming plays into the possibility of you getting an ingrown toenail.  You will want to make sure your toenails are trimmed.  Other factors that can cause you to be more susceptible to getting ingrown toenails are if you wear too tight of shoes a lot of the time, or if you sustain a toe injury.  A toe injury could be something like stubbing your toe, or dropping something heavy on top of your toe.  Some people have toenails that just curve in, and those people will need to make sure they keep an eye on their nail growth.  People with diabetes are at a higher risk of ingrown toenails as well. 



There are a few symptoms that go with an ingrown toenail.  Pain and tenderness on the toe that is affected are the main symptoms.  Other symptoms can include redness, and swelling.   If you experience pus draining from the spot of the ingrown toenail, increased swelling, throbbing or foul odor you will want to see a doctor.  These symptoms can be a sign of infection and you will want to get it treated before the infection spreads.  



The good news about ingrown toenails is that they are so common so they are easily diagnosed by you or your doctor.  They are usually self diagnosed.  Usually unless infection occurs or you don’t know what is causing your foot pain you won’t need to see a doctor.  Your doctor may encourage you to do some home remedies before having doctor intervention.  The way your doctor will diagnose is usually just by a physical exam of your foot.  No x rays or scans will be needed.  



Before you result to doctor intervention, you can try some things at home to help your ingrown toenail.  

The first one to try is to soak your toe in warm soapy water.  This will clean your foot and wash away any signs of infection.  You can do this multiple times a day.  The warmness of the water can help ease the pain as well. 

Another home remedy that is like soaking in warm water, is to soak your foot in apple cider vinegar.  Apple cider vinegar is supposed to have lots of helpful properties, such as anti-inflammatory.  

You can try packing cotton under your toenail to help encourage correct nail growth.  This will push the nail up so that it won’t grow down into the skin.  

Other treatments you can do at home would be to apply a topical antibiotic ointment, or to use over the counter pain relievers.  The antibiotic ointment will help decrease the likelihood of infection.  While the over the counter pain relievers such as tylenol, or ibuprofen will help with the discomfort and pain. 

You can also try and use a toe protector or toe brace.  A toe protector is like a bandaid to where it covers the ingrown toenail so that it won’t get bumped or allow bacteria to come in.  A toe brace actually gets glued onto the toe to stop the nail from being able to grow down into the skin.  

Sometimes home remedies aren’t enough.  If your ingrown nail gets infected or is too extreme you may need to see a doctor.  There are a few things your doctor may do.  The most extreme would be to remove the nail.  This usually is what your doctor will result in if you repeatedly keep getting ingrown toenails.  Your doctor will remove a portion or all of your toe nail either chemically or with a laser.  This procedure will make it to where the toenail won’t grow back in some cases.  Another option your doctor may have is to remove the ingrown nail part.  They will start by numbing your toe, then extracting the ingrown part by making a slice in your skin and clipping the part of the nail that is curving in.  This procedure can usually be done in the office.  The most common fix that your physician will most likely start with is to lift the nail.  They will lift up the nail and pack cotton underneath to keep the nail from growing into your toe.  This will help your nail grow outwards instead of curving in as well. 



There are lots of ways to treat an ingrown toenail but there are some things you can do to try and prevent even getting one in the first place.  You will want to make sure that you groom your nails appropriately.  Meaning that you don’t cut the nail following the curve of your toe, but cut it straight across.  This allows the corners of the nail to continue to grow out straight and less of a chance for them to grow into the skin next to your nail on the sides.  Also make sure that you don’t cut your nails too short.  If you get your nails done somewhere make sure you talk with your pedicurist so they know how you want your nails cut.  Make sure you wear shoes that fit and don’t pinch your toes.  Also make sure you do what you can to keep your feet safe from injury.  If you work somewhere where your toes could get smashed easily make sure you wear protective shoes, such as steel toed boots.  If you are a person who is more at risk, with diabetes make sure you check your feet regularly. 



Ingrown toenails are very common and can happen to anyone.  Make sure you have good foot hygiene and are keeping watch of your feet so you don’t have any surprises.  If you do end up with an ingrown toenail no need to panic, there are lots of ways to fix it and almost always are fixed with no complications. 



You will want to make sure that you groom your nails appropriately.  Meaning that you don’t cut the nail following the curve of your toe, but cut it straight across.  This allows the corners of the nail to continue to grow out straight and less of a chance for them to grow into the skin next to your nail on the sides.


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