What Causes Ingrown Toenails?
When a nail becomes ingrown, one (or more) of the following causes is typically to blame:
- Ill-fitting Footwear. Shoes that fit poorly can crowd the toes and exert extra pressure on the front of the foot, increasing the likelihood of a nail growing into the skin.
- Physical Trauma. Damage to the nail and/or nail bed, often from impacts such as dropping something on your toe or black toenails from running, can cause the nail to regrow incorrectly.
- Improper Nail Trimming. Cutting your nails too short or rounding them off too much at the edges can also cause improper regrowth.
- An Inherited Tendency. Some people are simply born with nails that tend to grow curved and become ingrown. If ingrown toenails are common in your family, they might happen regularly to you as well.
How to Get Rid of Ingrown Toenails
The usual place to start with treating ingrown toenails is with home care. However, don’t forget: skip home care and call us instead if any of the situations we discussed previously is in play.
If your case is otherwise mild, the following steps may provide the relief you need:
- Soak your feet for 15-20 minutes in warm water to soften the nail tissue, relieve tenderness, and reduce swelling.
- After soaking, gently pat the foot dry, then apply antibiotic cream or ointment and properly bandage the affected toe.
- Keep your toe out of tight shoes while it heals. Barefoot or open-toed shoes are usually the best options, depending on the situation. (Don’t run around outside barefoot, please.)
Some sources say to place a piece of dental floss or cotton beneath the nail after you soak, but there is some risk for pieces of these items to become stuck and potentially increase your risk of infection. If you do use floss or cotton, always replace it several times per day and make sure you get all of it out of there.
If your toes are not showing improvement after a day or two of home treatment, it’s time to see us. We can treat your ingrown toenail effectively by lifting it away from the skin.
In other cases, we may partially or fully remove the nail with a simple in-office procedure. A local anesthetic is used to numb the area before we do so, and things tend to feel a great deal better once that wears off!
For nails that continue to come back ingrown no matter what you do, we might recommend a removal of the nail followed by a special treatment to keep it from growing back.
After a removal, we will bandage your toe with antibacterial ointment and gauze. We will provide detailed post-operative instructions, and you might also want someone with you who can drive you home.