An ingrown toenail occurs when the side of the nail grows in towards the
skin, resulting in pain, inflammation, and swelling. If the nail penetrates
the skin, this can result in an infection, which is a serious condition.
The most common causes of an ingrown toenail is improper nail care, cutting
your nails too short on the sides of the nail, picking and pulling the
nail, nail trauma, and sometimes just congenital. You may be born with the
tendency of your nail to grow in more on the sides than others.
So how do you prevent an ingrown toenail? Proper nail cutting is
essential. When you cut your nails, cut them straight across. Don't cut
them in on the sides. Don't pull in on the sides. Cut them straight across
and file them gently. It's best to cut your nails after a bath or a shower
when they are soft and supple.
This technique is correct for the majority of the population. However, if
you have an incurvated nail, you may need to cut into the corners to
prevent them from ingrowing.
If you have thickened or fungal nails, cutting your nails can be extremely
difficult. Go see your local podiatrist who can cut it for you safely.
If you are diabetic, have circulation problems, or have a compromised
immune system, you should also seek medical attention in caring for your
If you develop pain and swelling around the nail, you should start soaking
immediately. I usually recommend a dilute Betadine solution or a solution
with a little Epsom salt. Soak a minimum of 10 to 15 minutes. Take your foot
out of the water, dry it, and apply a little antibiotic and cover with a
Band-Aid. If this doesn't relieve the condition, seek medical attention. If your toe
becomes infected and starts to drain, seek medical attention immediately.
Typically, when someone presents with an ingrown toenail to our office, we
do a local anesthetic block, followed by excision of the nail border that's
growing into the skin. If you have chronic ingrown toenails, there are
procedures that we can do where we destroy the matrix where the nail grows
from and prevent the nail from regrowing.