What’s Behind Ingrown Toenails?

A common (and painful!) condition that we treat frequently at Texas Foot Specialists is the ingrown toenail. An ingrown nail occurs when the nail curves down and begins to grow back into the skin surrounding the nail bed. It happens most often with the big toe. You may not notice an ingrown nail until it starts to hurt. Other symptoms include redness, hardness, swelling and a feeling of warmth in the toe. Once the nail penetrates the skin, it is also possible for an infection to develop.

Common Causes

The number one cause of ingrown toenails is improper nail care. Toenails should be cut straight across (no curved edges) and not too short. When nails are trimmed too short it makes it easy for the skin next to the nail to fold over it and cause the nail to begin to grow inward. Other possible reasons for ingrown toenails include:

  • Injury—dropping a heavy object on your toe or stubbing it badly can cause an ingrown nail. So can repeated trauma, such as the pounding of the front of the foot against your shoe if you are an avid runner.
  • Poorly fitted footwear—shoes or socks that are too tight can squeeze the toes up against one another for long periods of time making it easy for a nail to become ingrown.
  • Fungal toenail infections

Getting Relief

You can try soaking an ingrown toenail in warm, soapy water several times a day. This will soften the skin around the nail. You then may be able to massage the nail out of the skin. If this is ineffective or if the ingrown nail recurs and/or becomes infected, it’s time to make an appointment at our Houston, Pasadena or Sugar Land office. Our podiatrists, Dr. Bruce Miller and Dr. Gregory Mangum can perform a partial nail plate avulsion: using a local anesthetic, a small part of the affected nail is removed. If an infection has developed the foot doctor may prescribe an antibiotic as well. If you currently have an ingrown nail don’t wait, contact us today.