If you have an ingrown toenail, the side border of your toenail — usually your big toe —starts to dig in and irritate the skin. The sharp edge digging into the skin may set a pathway of irritation to inflammation (warmth, redness, swelling) to infection (drainage, pus), all of which cause pain.
More so, ingrown toenails hurt so a lot because the skin near your nail corners is a particularly sensitive area, since it has a high number of nerves.
The big question however is how do they happen in the first place, and how can you get rid of them? Here are several tips that can be of help.
What causes ingrown toenails?
There’s no straight answer for what causes ingrown toenails. However, it could be anything from your attire to your workout to your grooming habits. Tight-fitting shoes, for instance, can heighten your risk of getting a ingrown toenail. If your shoes fit too tight around the toes, it puts more pressure on the front of your foot, pushing your toes into the end.
Ingrown toenails are also common among runners. Any activity with repetitive pressure of the nail in the shoe, such as running, biking, or other sports, can put you at risk for an ingrown nail. Pressure on the nail encourages the nail to grow beneath the skin, which causes irritation and swelling.
Furthermore, clipping your nails too short or cutting them at an angle can also impact the way the nail grows, encouraging them to grow into the skin rather than straight out. It is essential you follow the proper way to cut your toenails.
Cut straight across, making sure you’re not doing so at an angle or digging in to the corners. You should also keep your toenails long — say, one to two millimeters at the end of the nail — so they’re not at risk of growing inward, but short enough so debris can’t gather underneath them.
How can you get rid of ingrown toenails?
If you already have an ingrown toenail, don’t be worried. Chances are good that you can treat it at home without resorting to any outside intervention. In the early stages of an ingrown nail, lukewarm epsom salt soaks may help to break up any debris building up beneath the nail and reduce inflammation.
If you soak your feet for 20 minutes, the lukewarm water will encourage the nail to grow outward; it’ll also get rid of debris, which will help to prevent buildup and possible infection.
After doing this, don’t forget to apply an ointment. Over-the-counter topical meds such as an antibiotic ointment can help induce infection risk. Ointments containing salicylic acid can also help soften the skin.
If the issue doesn’t get better over the next few days, you may need to consult a podiatrist or foot specialist. If just the corner at the end of your nail is digging into your skin, your doctor may perform something called the slant-back procedure, in which the corner of the nail is cut out to allow the nail to stop growing into the skin.
If you however have a fully ingrown nail along with signs of infection, such as thick, yellow, or milky-colored pus, the podiatirst may decide to perform a partial nail avulsion to get rid of it. This entails locally numbing the digit and using sterile instruments, freeing up the entire border from the skin and cutting it out.