Your toenails are made of a hard protein called keratin. The nails naturally grow on the surface of your toes, but clipping your nails too short — or stubbing your toe — can force the sharp nail edge into the soft skin alongside it.

When a nail starts growing into the skin next to it, an ingrown toenail starts to form. Ingrown are often quite painful and they can get infected if left untreated.

At Performance Footcare PC, Bryon Butts, DPM, and our team specialize in preventing, diagnosing, and treating ingrown nails. Avoiding the discomfort of ingrown nails starts with understanding how they form, and we’re here to help.

Ingrown toenail basics

Any of your nails can get ingrown, but big toes are most often affected. An ingrown nail typically starts with mild redness or swelling along one side of your nail. The most common symptoms of an ingrown toenail are:

  • Hard lump near nail
  • Redness
  • Swelling
  • Toe pain
  • Small amount of pus
  • Warm to the touch

The main causes of ingrown toenails are trimming your nails incorrectly and wearing shoes that are too tight. Inheriting a naturally curved toenail shape or having sweaty feet could also make ingrown nails more likely.

Ingrown toenails can develop into painful infections if they’re not promptly addressed. And if you have an underlying health condition like diabetes, your risk of severe complications from ingrown toenails increases.

How to prevent ingrown toenails

Anyone can get an ingrown toenail. However, there are a few simple steps you can take to reduce your risk of this bothersome foot condition.

Trim toenails regularly to keep them a moderate length. Keeping nails too short increases your risk of ingrown nails, while nails that are too long can break, causing other types of damage.

When you’re trimming your nails, cut them straight across. Don’t taper or curve the edges, because that makes ingrowns more likely. If you have trouble reaching your feet or trimming your toenails, consider getting professional nail trimming at Performance Footcare PC.

Along with nail trimming, proper foot hygiene helps you avoid ingrown toenails. Wash your feet regularly, and thoroughly dry them before putting on socks or shoes. Keeping your feet clean is especially important if you have excessively sweaty feet.

Choosing the right socks and shoes can also help you avoid ingrown nails. Don’t wear socks or shoes that are too tight, because they squeeze your toes together. Instead, wear roomy, comfortable footwear that doesn’t pinch your toes.

What to do about ingrown toenails

Even with the right foot care, you might find yourself with an ingrown toenail at some time or another. Mild to moderate ingrown nails may heal on their own with at-home care, or Dr. Butts can treat it by placing a small splint under the nail.

Splinting your toenail encourages the skin of your toe to grow away from your nail. If your ingrown nail shows signs of infection like warmth or oozing, Dr. Butts may apply a topical antimicrobial solution or prescribe antibiotics.

Some people are prone to recurring ingrown nails and painful infections. In these cases, Dr. Butts may recommend a minimally invasive procedure to remove part or all of your toenail.

He administers local anesthesia and trims away the part of your toenail that gets ingrown. He cleans your nail bed and applies a chemical or laser treatment to prevent future growth, effectively eliminating recurrent ingrown toenail problems.

Do you think you could have an ingrown toenail? Don’t wait to seek treatment. Schedule a consultation at Performance Footcare PC over the phone or request an appointment online now.

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