Ingrown Toenail Woes: The Curves Nobody Wants
You won’t like it when your nails start to seriously curve inwards and dig into the flesh of your big toes. The pain will put you down and limit your activities whenever the inflamed surrounding tissues get angry and infected. And it takes more than antibiotics to address the root cause of this recurring condition!
What Makes Your Nail Curl Inwards So Badly!
Here is why you have grown, over time, ingrown toenail(s). Many people develop a gait pattern that puts excessive pressure on the sides of their big toes, as their progressively overpronating feet roll in and out at each and every step they take. Then there is the chance that the root of the nail gets progressively deformed – incurved or incurvated – by these repetitive ”rock the boat“, side-to-side, big toe overload and increase in friction as they walk around. And now one or both of your big toenail(s) are growing out oddly, digging into the tissues that get inflamed, in pain, red and swollen, and guess what? Infected!
For sure, there are several other reasons your big toenail could grow curled in instead of nice and straight. If heredity is one of them, it does not explain everything. Long nails in tight shoes might sometimes be a contributive factor, as can a job or physical activity that causes repeated nail trauma or micro-trauma from your shoes. It can even come down to how you trim or over trim them. Not too short should be your mantra: let 2 mm of unsupported white nail at the end. Straight across is not the way to go: follow the natural curve at the end of your toe as you do when you cut your finger nails! The use of a file or emery board just for smoothing any sharp edges at the corners is optional if need be.
Why Ingrown Toenails Hurt
It is actually the skin around the nail that is painful, not the keratin itself. Any time soft tissues experience undue pressure or irritation, your body rushes extra blood cells there to heal the damage. This can cause the flesh to puff up and become inflamed in and around the nail folds, which leads to the pain and redness around your toenail.
If the condition worsens, the edges of the nail can actually pierce the skin. Now you have not only pain, swelling, and inflammation, but also the risk of a bacterial infection (called paronychia). Sometimes a pocket of pus will appear, and there could be drainage and a bad odor as well.
What You Can Do at Home for Ingrown Nails
If you have diabetes, we do not recommend trying home treatment at all. The risks of injury and infection are much greater when you have this disease. Instead, come in and let our experts handle your painful nail safely.
If you are otherwise healthy, you could try simple home treatment to relieve your pain. Start by soaking the toe in warm, soapy water. If you suspect it may be infected, add salt to your soak solution. Then dry your feet well, including between the toes. At this point the nail will be soft and you might try to gently uncurl it. Follow this with a dab of antibiotic ointment and a bandage.
Doing this once or twice a day may decrease the irritation, and in a mild case, the nail may even start to grow a bit straighter. Of course, you will also need to wear shoes that have roomy fronts that wont cramp your toes.
The Most Effective Treatment for Ingrown Toenails
Chances are home treatments will only work temporarily to address pain and redness. They wont stop your nail from growing the wrong way. The only sure way to do that is with a procedure called a matrixectomy. The curling sides of the nail will be removed, and the growth center at the edges treated with chemicals to destroy them. We will do this safely and with minimal pain in our office using local anesthesia. After the procedure, the nails will no longer grow those curved edges that were pressing into your toe.
For ingrown nails or any other foot problem, contact Ottawa Foot Practice for superb care and treatment. You can schedule an appointment right here on our website, or call our Ottawa, ON office at (613) 595-9700 to set up a visit. We want to help!