Nothing can kill your holiday spirit faster than when your feet are in pain and every step you take is a chore. Ingrown toenails are especially troublesome because the pain they cause isn’t always alleviated by simply removing your shoes and kicking up your feet.
At South Sound Foot & Ankle, board-certified podiatrist Mark Hopkins, DPM, helps patients struggling with ingrown toenails in the Olympia, Washington, area find relief. He also wants to equip his patients with the right information so you can take steps to treat ingrown nails at home.
Here’s a closer look at ingrown toenails and the different ways you can care for them at home.
Ingrown toenail 101
Your toenails should grow straight out from their nail bed, but sometimes the sides or one of the front edges of the nail begins to curve and cut into your skin instead of growing straight. The result? An ingrown toenail.
You can develop an ingrown toenail for many different reasons. One of the most common ways people develop this problem is by trimming their toenails too short.
Another common culprit of ingrown toenails is wearing shoes that pinch or cramp your toes. This pushes the nails and stops them from being able to grow straight out.
Other possible reasons you might develop an ingrown toenail include:
- Trauma to the toenail, like a stubbed toe
- There’s an underlying nail health issue, like a fungal infection
- Genetics or family history
- Congenital defects, like having a nail that larger than the nail bed
Even though ingrown toenails most commonly happen to the big toe, it’s possible to develop one on any toe.
The do’s and don’ts of ingrown toenail home care
Most ingrown nails will resolve on their own with a little TLC at home. Here are some of the do’s and don’ts of caring for an ingrown nail.
Do not perform “bathroom surgery”
Ingrown toenails are uncomfortable. While cutting your nails straight across and keeping them trimmed is a good preventive step for avoiding ingrown toenails, do not attempt to cut away nails that have already ingrown with “bathroom surgery.” This increases your risk of infection as well as the likelihood of getting an ingrown nail in the future.
Do soak your feet
If you have an ingrown toenail, you know how uncomfortable it can be. Soaking your feet in warm, soapy water or apple cider vinegar can provide relief. The warm water helps reduce swelling and alleviate discomfort, while apple cider vinegar is thought to have anti-inflammatory, antiseptic properties.
Do use an antibiotic ointment and bandages
Ingrown toenails become problematic when they become infected. Help stave away infection by applying an antibiotic ointment to your toe. Keep it wrapped in a bandaid or gauze to help the ointment remain in place and to pad the affected toe.
Do pay attention to footwear
If you have an ingrown toenail, choose comfortable footwear with plenty of toe room. Tight shoes that pinch your toes can lead to cuts and infection. In addition, opt for footwear that keeps your feet dry and doesn’t encourage the growth of bacteria and fungal infections. For example, change your socks throughout the day if your feet get sweaty.
Don’t wait to seek help when necessary
Sometimes at-home treatments aren’t enough to treat ingrown toenails. If your symptoms don’t improve or get worse after a few days of home care, contact the team at South Sound Foot & Ankle so we can help prevent complications.
If you notice any signs of infection, see your podiatrist right away. Here are some signs your ingrown nail is infected:
- Redness and swelling extending away from the nail
- A feeling of pressure under the nail
- Feeling warm to the touch
- Foul smell
- Draining fluid or pus
It’s also important to note that diabetics and people with other conditions that reduce circulation to your legs and feet are more likely to develop infections as a result of an ingrown nail.
If this describes you, our team recommends skipping the at-home care and scheduling an appointment with a podiatrist as soon as you develop any symptoms of an ingrown toenail.
Learn more about caring for ingrown nails by contacting Dr. Hopkins and the team here at South Sound Foot & Ankle. Call our Olympia office to schedule an appointment or book online now!