A Nail-Based Nuisance (But It Can Become Worse!)
It feels like our toenails tend to be victim of misfortunes a bit more than other parts of us—perhaps due to them being out there on the “front lines” of life.
Bruised nails, black nails, fungal nails, hangnails; it’s not pretty to think about! But of all the insidious little problems to befall our toenails, ingrown nails may be most common.
The painful, inflamed, irritation of the skin by a nail that starts to curve and grow into it is never fun to have. Thankfully, in most cases it is nothing serious. But what if that ingrown nail is looking infected, or it just keeps coming back?
That’s where we step in!
Causes of Ingrown Toenails
An ingrown toenail can result from one of several different potential causes. Some are preventable, while others are not.
These causes include:
- Wearing Ill-fitting Shoes. A shoe with a toe box that is too small can cramp the toes against each other or press them up against the front of the shoe. Both instances can cause the nail to start growing in an abnormal direction.
You might think going loose is best, but hold on! Shoes that offer too much movement of the foot can cause your nails to slide up against the front of the shoes repeatedly, also potentially causing ingrown nails. All you need are shoes with wiggle room in the toes but not much sliding.
- Nail Trauma. In addition to the repeated crashing of your toes into your shoes noted above, other slams and impacts can cause a toenail to start curving instead of growing straight.
- Improper Nail Trimming. The way you cut your nails can influence their growth! Cutting nails too short is a bad move. Ensure you leave 1-2 mm at the end of your nail; enough to get a fingernail beneath.
Curving the corners of your nails too greatly can also cause a change of growth direction into the skin. Try to cut straight across, with maybe a very minimal curving at the edges.
- You can’t change the genes you were born with (at least not yet). Some people are simply born with toenails that naturally curve as they grow. If you get ingrown toenails somewhat frequently, and changes in shoes and other habits haven’t helped, it might be in your DNA.
When Should I See a Doctor?
We encourage you to contact us any time you might have questions about an ingrown toenail. It’s always best to be safe, and our medical staff is prepared to answer all your questions!
That said, there are some cases where you would certainly want to seek an expert’s help:
- Signs of Infection. These can include severe pain, pus, a foul odor, and severe redness that seems to radiate out from the site of the ingrown nail.
- Reoccurrence. If your ingrown nails just keep coming back no matter what you do, odds are you need a more advanced treatment.
When seeing a podiatrist for an ingrown nail, we will discuss all of your options for treatment.
However, if your case is more severe, we have a cosmetically pleasing procedure with minimal pain and a quick recovery. We remove a small section of the nail border and cauterize the matrix beneath so it no longer grows new nail tissue. This in-office procedure fixes the problem permanently and takes about 10 minutes. It involves the use of local anesthetic and is a relatively simple procedure.
Care for Ingrown Nails (and All Other Nail Conditions, Too!)
Don’t let an ingrown toenail become a consistent nuisance in your life—or something worse! Our offices in Holland and St. Joseph are open to diagnose and treat all kinds of maladies of the foot and ankle.
Schedule an appointment by calling (616) 393-8886 for our Holland office or (269) 429-7670 for our St. Joseph office. You can also fill out our online form!