Ingrown Toenails: Prevention and Treatment Tips

Ingrown toenails are more than just a minor annoyance—they can really throw a wrench into your daily life. When your toenail starts growing into the skin surrounding it, it can lead to a whole host of issues, from inflammation and pain to potentially serious infections if you don’t address it promptly. With the right prevention techniques and knowing what treatment options are available, you can take control of the situation and find relief.

Understanding the cause

Ingrown toenails often result from improper nail trimming, tight-fitting shoes, or inherited nail shape. When nails are trimmed too short or not straight across, they have a higher likelihood of growing into the skin. Similarly, wearing shoes that crowd the toes can increase pressure on the nails, encouraging them to grow inward. Recognising these risk factors is crucial in preventing ingrown toenails from developing in the first place.

Prevention techniques

Preventing ingrown toenails is crucial for maintaining healthy and pain-free feet. Incorporating the following techniques into your routine can help keep them at bay:

  • Proper nail trimming: When it comes to nail care, precision is key. Trim your toenails straight across, avoiding rounded edges. Cutting them too short increases the likelihood of them growing into the surrounding skin. Aim to leave a bit of white at the edge of the nail to ensure it’s not trimmed too close.
  • Wear proper footwear: Your choice of shoes plays a significant role in the health of your feet. Opt for footwear with adequate toe room to prevent crowding and pressure on the toenails. This is especially important for individuals engaged in activities like running or hiking, where the toes endure repetitive stress. Make sure your shoes provide enough space for your toes to wiggle comfortably.
  • Maintain good foot hygiene: Keeping your feet clean and dry is essential for preventing fungal infections that can worsen ingrown toenails. Wash your feet daily with soap and water, paying attention to the spaces between your toes. Dry them thoroughly, especially after bathing, to prevent moisture buildup, which creates an ideal environment for fungal growth.
  • Avoid trauma to the toenails: Be mindful of activities that could potentially harm your toenails. Avoid kicking objects or subjecting your toes to repetitive pressure, as these actions can lead to trauma and increase the risk of ingrown toenails. If you participate in sports or activities that put your feet at risk, consider wearing protective footwear or toe guards to minimise the impact.

 Treatment options

When dealing with an ingrown toenail, timely treatment is essential to prevent further discomfort and potential complications. Here’s a more detailed look at the available treatment options:

  • Soaking: Soaking the affected foot in warm water several times a day can provide significant relief by reducing swelling and tenderness. Add Epsom salts or a mild antiseptic solution to the warm water for added relief. The warm water helps to soften the skin around the ingrown nail, making it easier to gently manipulate and alleviate pressure.
  • Lifting the nail: This technique involves gently lifting the edge of the ingrown toenail and placing a small piece of cotton or dental floss underneath it. By doing so, you create a space for the nail to grow above the skin, relieving the pressure and discomfort.
  • Antibiotics: If the ingrown toenail becomes infected, antibiotics (either topical or oral) may be necessary to treat the infection and prevent it from spreading. Signs of infection include redness, swelling, warmth, and pus drainage around the affected area.
  • Surgery: In severe cases or if conservative measures fail to provide relief, surgical intervention may be necessary. This typically involves removing part or all of the affected nail to prevent further ingrowth. The procedure is usually performed under local anaesthesia in a clinic or outpatient setting. After surgery, you may need to keep the toe bandaged and elevate it to promote healing.

Seek professional help

It’s essential to seek professional help if you experience severe pain, signs of infection such as pus or drainage, or if home treatments are ineffective. A podiatrist such as Thames Foot Clinic can provide personalised recommendations and treatment options tailored to your specific needs. Don’t let ingrown toenails keep you from enjoying life—take proactive steps to keep your feet healthy and pain-free.


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