Ingrown toenails are a relatively common foot condition and affect most people at one time or another. They occur when the corner of the toenail, generally on the big toe, grows into the fleshy part of the toe. This results in pain, swelling, redness and, on rare occasions, an infection*. This can become a very painful condition and seeking ingrown toenail treatment quickly is a priority.
While they are painful, they tend to be more of a nuisance. However, ignoring the problem won’t make it go away. There are several treatments you can do yourself that are just as effective as seeing a physician without investing the time or money for an office call.
Soak Your Toe
Soaking your foot helps reduce swelling and has the bonus effect of feeling really good. Soak in a basin of warm, not hot, water for 15-20 minutes once or twice per day. Adding a tablespoon or two of Epsom salts (available at your local pharmacy) helps reduce the swelling and redness. This simple soak can help your nail to grow out naturally. After the soak, you can place a small piece of cotton under the offending nail. This will provide a cushion between your toe and the nail until the nail grows out. Change the cotton at least every other day.
Trim Your Nails
There is a right way and a wrong way to trim your toenails. First, be sure you have clean clippers to use. Then cut the nails straight across. If the corners are sharp, file them. Never cut toenails in a curved shape. This causes ingrown toenails. If you are prone to ingrown nails, cut straight and get a good quality nail file to smooth the rough edges.
Wear Comfortable Shoes
Poor toenail clipping isn’t the only culprit for ingrown toenails. Tight fitting shoes are another source of pain. Those pointed toe stilettos can make it tough for toes to have enough room and are often the perpetrator of ingrown nails. Lower heels of an inch or less and roomier toe compartments are much easier on the toes.
If you are in the midst of an ingrown toenail problem, try going barefoot or wearing open toe sandals. This allows your toes to wiggle and removes pressure from the nail. If you need to wear socks, wear white ones. Colored socks are fun, but the dyes can run and irritate the wound**.
Beware of Old Wives’ Tales
There’s a reason why they’re called “tales.” It’s because most of them just aren’t true. One old wives’ tale says that cutting a “V” in the top center of your nail will relieve the pressure as the nail grows out. When you consider that toenails grow from the base of your toe up, rather than from the tip of your toe down, this tale makes no sense. Think about any advice of this kind carefully before you put it into practice.
What about Pedicures?
For some people, pedicures are a regular treat. While the soaking, nail trim and foot massage component make your feet feel great, there are some things to consider. First, make sure all the metal instruments are sterilized prior to use. No metal should ever be used to remove dead skin. Pumice stones are ideal as are some kinds of files. If the area is red or swollen, avoiding polish on that toe is probably a good idea.
When to See a Doctor
If you see pus or the area becomes extremely swollen and hot to the touch, an infection is present. You should see your primary care doctor or a podiatrist as soon as possible. You may need prescription antibiotics or minor surgery to correct the problem.
A bit of common sense and some patience will have your toenail back to normal in no time.
What not to do!
Be careful of trying to self diagnose. The internet is a wonderful place full of useful information. But as the saying goes
a little learning is a dangerous thing – Alexander Pope (1688 – 1744)