Sometimes things do not grow the way they are supposed to grow. Well-tended gardens still get rogue plants—weeds. Your body can have this problem, too, particularly your nails. A variety of issues can create painful ingrown toenails—rogue tissue that grows the wrong way. Fortunately, this condition is easy to treat to eliminate your pain.
Your nails are supposed to grow straight outward from the matrix at the base to the end of your toe. The hard keratin helps protect the tips of your toes from pressure and hard impacts. However, it doesn’t always grow as straight as it should. Sometimes an edge curls and grows inward, pinching the skin beside the nail. This problem is progressive, so once the keratin begins to grow that way, it will continue to do so unless it is treated. It could even pierce the skin as it curls.
This causes sharp pain around the affected edge. The toe becomes red, tender to the touch, and swollen around the nail. The skin may grow over the curling corner, exacerbating the problem. If the hard keratin pierces the toe, your digit is opened to infections—which will increase any discomfort you already have. An infection may have pus oozing from the nail area and increased redness around the damage.
The Negative Influences
Many factors can contribute to or cause ingrown toenails to develop. The most common underlying issue is actually how you trim them. If they are cut too short, allowed to grow too long, or have the corners and edges clipped, they are more likely to grow into the skin instead of straight forward. Wearing too-tight shoes that pinch the digits is another common culprit. The constant squeezing can actually change how your nails develop. Trauma from stubbing your toe or dropping something heavy on it can also damage your toenail and alter its shape, causing curling. Sometimes your natural nail shape makes you more prone to the problem. Preexisting issues like fungal infections can cause in-growing as well.
Straightening Out the Nails
Fortunately, ingrown toenails are a simple problem with many solutions to alleviate your discomfort and allow them to heal. First, Dr. Robert Parker and the Parker Foot and Ankle staff will need to evaluate your toe and determine the extent of the problem. Then we will formulate a plan to manage the damage. We will also look for the underlying culprit so you can take steps to prevent the problem in the future.
Some home care can relieve your discomfort and help straighten the hard keratin. Foot soaks with warm water and Epsom salts reduce swelling and minimize pain. Lifting up the edge of the nail and placing floss or sterile cotton underneath may help it grow straighter above the skin, instead of curling into it. Apply antibiotic ointments to the sore area to prevent infections. Wear soft, comfortable footwear, too. Make sure the toe box is wide and deep enough so it won’t press on the nail.
While these conservative treatments can relieve pain, sometimes the best thing to do for an ingrown nail is to remove the painful edge. This is a quick, minor procedure. Your toe is numbed and the portion that is curving into the skin is cut away. In rare cases, the whole nail may need to be removed. If it repeatedly grows into your skin, you may need to have it removed and stunted so it can’t grow back.
Ingrown toenails are common abnormalities, but you don’t have to put up with them. Taking care of the issue can be quick and easy. Don’t wait until you have an infection to manage your condition. Contact Dr. Robert Parker and the Parker Foot & Ankle Staff in Houston, TX, for an appointment or more information about caring for painful nail problems. You can call (281) 497-2850 or use our web form to reach us.
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