What is an ingrown toenail?
An ingrown toenail occurs when the side of the toenail digs into the skin. It commonly affects the big toe but can affect the smaller ones too. It may be a little uncomfortable at first. If left untreated, though, it can become very painful and infected.
How can I tell if I have an ingrown nail?
The first signs of an ingrown nail include:
- Pain, redness and swelling. The skin around the nail may feel warmer than usual.
- It is particularly painful in tight-fitting shoes, or if you bang your toe by accident.
- The sharp edge or point of the nail may break the skin and cause bleeding.
- Over time, extra skin and tissue will grow around the edge of the nail and you may notice a clear or yellow fluid.
- An infection can develop. If this happens, the swelling and redness will get worse and pus (a thick yellow/green fluid) will drain from the area. It may feel like your toe is throbbing. In rare cases, you may get a high temperature (fever).
There are other conditions that have similar signs and symptoms and are treated differently. If you aren’t sure if it’s an ingrown nail, you should book an appointment with your foot care expert at We Fix Feet clinics in Nottinghamshire and Derbyshire to have it checked out.
What causes them?
Cutting your toenails badly and wearing inappropriate footwear are common causes of ingrown nails. Tight socks can also put too much pressure on the toenail. Damage or injury to the nail (for example, if you stub your toe) may also trigger an ingrown nail to start.
Some foot conditions increase the risk of ingrown nails. Sweaty feet make the skin around the toenails soft, making it easier for the nail to pierce the skin. A fungal nail infection can result in a nail growing thicker or wider, which then digs into the skin at the side.
Anyone can get an ingrown nail. However, they are more common in men and young adults, and people with naturally curved or fan-shaped nails.
Can I treat an ingrown toenail at home?
In mild cases, it may be possible to take care of the problem yourself at home with the following steps:
- Keep your feet clean and dry. Change your socks regularly.
- Wear sensible shoes that fit properly.
- Cut your toenails straight across.
- If the toenail is uncomfortable, use a few small drops of olive oil to soften the skin, then gently push the skin away from the nail with a cotton bud.
- Soak the feet in warm salty water for 15 minutes a day to help prevent infection.
- If the ingrown nail is painful, you can take some over-the-counter painkillers. Read the information leaflet or ask your doctor or pharmacist for advice.
- Do not try to cut down the sides of the nail yourself. If this is done incorrectly it can make the ingrown nail much worse. If you think a sharp bit of nail is digging into your skin, you should visit a Foot Health Professional who will remove the nail spike for you.
- Do not take antibiotics to treat an infection unless a doctor or other qualified health professional tells you to do so.
- Do not ignore the problem, especially if the symptoms are getting worse.
Seeking treatments for ingrown toenails
It is better to treat the ingrown nail when it is in the early stages, to prevent it from becoming more severe and painful. Our Foot Health Professionals at We Fix Feet will gently remove any sharp pieces of the nail, providing immediate relief. We will also give you advice on how to manage it at home and minimise the chance of it recurring.
You should see a foot health professional if:
- Home treatment is not helping, or the ingrown nail keeps coming back.
- The symptoms are getting worse.
- You think you have an infection.
People with certain medical conditions should also seek help and advice from a podiatry clinic. If you have diabetes or a weak immune system, you will need careful assessment and monitoring. The same applies if you suffer from any condition that affects the nerves or sensation in your feet (neuropathy).
What will happen at my We Fix Feet appointment?
Our foot experts, based at our clinics in Beeston, Nottingham and Ilkeston, Derby are fully qualified to assess and manage ingrown nails. Depending on its severity, there is a range of different treatments for ingrown toenails.
- Cleansing the area and removing any dried blood or fluid.
- Gentle removal of the nail spike that is digging into the skin.
- Placing a small piece of cotton wool under the side of the nail so that it doesn’t grow into the skin.
- Using a chemical (silver nitrate) to encourage any excess tissue growth to shrink.
- Applying an antiseptic to help fight infection and dressing the toe with a sterile plaster or dressing.
- Advice on if/when to visit a doctor for antibiotics.
- Education and advice on avoiding ingrown toenails in the future.
In some cases, it is necessary to perform nail surgery to remove the nail. The Foot Health Professional will inject a local anaesthetic to numb the toe and make it painless. Then part or all of the nail will be taken out, and a chemical (called phenol) is applied to stop the nail from regrowing. The procedure is quick and simple. If you think you need nail surgery, talk to your Foot Health Professional at We Fix Feet for more details.
If you would like more information about our treatments for ingrown toenails you can visit our website or contact our award-winning clinics in Beeston, Nottingham and Ilkeston, Derby. You can make an appointment at our clinics here.