If the skin around your toenail is red, sore and swollen, you may have an ingrown toenail. According to the American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons, "An ingrown nail occurs when the skin on one or both sides of a nail grows over the edges of the nail, or when the nail itself grows into the skin.” 

Now, that change in growth pattern hurts. But what causes ingrown nails to form? And how can you prevent and treat a nail that’s in-growing? Let’s take a closer look! 

Ingrown Toenails: Causes 

Ingrown toenails don’t just happen for one reason. In fact, there are several different reasons why your nail’s growth pattern may change. Here are just a few: 

1.    Nail Cutting Technique

Try cutting your nail straight across, leaving some visible white nail and avoiding going into the corners. Any other method increases your risk of toenail trauma and ingrowth. Also, if you already have an ingrown nail, don’t try to cut it away yourself. Doing so increases your risk for infection. It’s also unlikely to cure your problem, and quite likely to cause you more pain. 

2.    Your Nail Shape 

Many people are born with nails that are too wide for their nailbeds—an inherited trait you can’t do much about. If your nails seems to bulge at the sides, this may your problem. So, even if you don’t have an ingrown toenail yet, you likely will at some point in the future. 

3.    Toe Injuries ingrown toenail

Anytime you stub your toe, you cause trauma to the toenail. And that trauma can impact the direction in which it grows. Basically, when you hurt your nail, it may get pushed into your skin. In turn, you may develop ingrowth, along with pain, inflammation and even infections. 

4.    The Way Your Foot Works (Your Biomechanics) 

Biomechanics are the way your muscles, tendons and ligaments work together when you move. And, sometimes, the mechanics of your foot can increase your ingrown toenail risk. Basically, if you roll off the side of your big toe when you walk, that moves your toes together and puts extra pressure on the toe. In turn, the delicate skin around your nail can get pressed into the sharp nail. Soon enough, you may notice an ingrown toenail.

Signs and Symptoms 

The most obvious sign of ingrowth is seeing the nail cut into the surrounding skin. But you may also notice symptoms that include: 

•    Pain on one or both sides of the nail
•    Swelling and redness 
•    Pus or bleeding that originates from the nail sides

Safely Treating Ingrown Nails in Medford Oregon

As soon as you notice a red or swollen toenail, you could try soaking your foot in warm water with Epsom salt. Doing so every day, for up to 15 minutes at a time, in order to relieve pain and pressure around your nail. In between soaks, make sure to apply antibiotic ointment to the toe, and stick to roomy shoes with lots of space in the toe box. Also, you may wish to take over-the-counter pain medication, such as acetaminophen or ibuprofen, to help reduce discomfort and inflammation. 

You should know if this treatment is working withing two to three days. But if you aren’t experiencing relief at that point, your nail is unlikely to get better without treatment. And that’s when it’s time to get some professional help.

Now, in our podiatry practice in Medford, OR, we have several ways to treat your ingrown nail. But the most likely option, especially if your nail is already infected, will be ingrown toenail surgery. Of course, we call this procedure surgery, but you’ll only need local anesthetic, after which the procedure is both quick and virtually painless. During the procedure, we’ll numb your toe with an injection of local anesthetic (this is the most painful part of the surgery). After, we can usually correct the ingrowth by removing just a small section of nail plate’s side. In fact, your nail will often look exactly the same afterward. 

However, if you keep developing ingrown toenails, we may need a more permanent solution. In such cases, we may use medication to cauterize the cells in your nail matrix (they grow at the edge of your nail.) After that application, you won’t have to worry about ingrown toenails again…
Unless, of course, trauma causes your ingrown toenail. If that’s the case, we may need to remove your entire nail plate. (Even if you don’t have toenail trauma, we may remove the entire nail if you’ve developed thickening or have severe pain.) In such cases, we would still numb your toe with local anesthesia, then remove the entire nail. But we would only recommend this procedure if you have chronic ingrowth and toenail pain. 
Want to avoid surgery—and ingrown toenail pain? Instead of treating your ingrown toenail, let’s prevent one from forming in the first place! 

3 Ways to Prevent Ingrown Toenails

Want to keep your nails growing in the right direction? Here’s what the American College of Foot and Ankle Surgeons  says you need to do if you want to prevent ingrown toenails. 

1. Change your shoe type. Shoes that are too tight, too small or even too long can cause trauma to your nails and, in turn, cause ingrowth. 

2. Trim your toenails moving in a straight across line. Make sure to leave some visible white nail when you’re done, and don’t trim too close to the tip of your toe. 

3. Protect your nails wherever your go. Even when you’re walking around your home, a hard stub against the wall could cause trauma and a change in nail growth. So skip going barefoot and slip into supportive indoor shoes. Doing so could both prevent ingrown toenails and provide enough support to keep heel pain at bay.  

Already dealing with a painful ingrown toenail? Don’t try to fix things at home: the pain will only get worse. Instead, reach out to our office for an immediate appointment. We’ll offer you safe, sterile and effective treatment! 

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