Ingrown toenails can be especially painful. A friend of mine dropped a heavy law book on her toe and for the next six months went back and forth to the podiatrist trying to avoid the next step of having her entire toe nail removed.
Ingrown toe nails occur when something, such as a sudden force or pressure from a tight shoe, forcibly pushes the nail edge into the nail fold alongside the nail. The area quickly becomes inflamed, red and swollen and, without treatment, can progress to a more serious problem.
The most common cause of ingrown toenails is improper trimming according to the American College of Foot and Ankle Surgeons. We tend to trim our nails following the contour of our toes but many times we make the nail on our large toe too curved which can force the nail into the lateral skin if the toe is bumped or squeezed by shoes that are too tight.
Ingrown nails can be inherited, however, it is more common that ill fitting shoes that are too small or even too large are the major culprits. Sports such as soccer can also cause or aggravate an ingrown toe nail. Constant running and kicking while wearing snug, slim fitting shoes, does not allow toes to stretch or move freely. Combined with sweat from the exercise, an environment susceptible to infection can quickly occur.
How to prevent ingrown toe nails:
1. Cut nails straight across so the nail rides onto the surface of the skin at the top of the toe. Do not curve down the ends, slightly round them if necessary and do not cut them too short.
2. Air out your feet when you are home. Wear cotton socks and change them frequently if your feet perspire.
3. Wear properly fitted shoes with a wide toe box to keep toes from pushing against each other. Remove soccer or sport shoes immediately after play to reduce pressure and friction on a potentially irritated big toenail.
What to do if you develop an ingrown toenail:
1. Soak the toe for 20 minutes, 2 to 3 times a day adding Epsom salt or vinegar to the water. Resist the urge to perform home surgery by trying to cut out the inflamed nail yourself! You can massage the skin fold lightly if tolerable after soaking.