Ingrown Toenail Woes: The Curves Nobody Wants
Grand Prix racers love speeding around curved, hilly roads to test their driving skills. A potter loves watching the curved bowl or vase appear from the lump of clay thrown on the wheel. However, you won’t love it when your nail decides to curve under and dig into the flesh of your big toe. The pain from an ingrown toenail can be severe and debilitating, but it doesn’t have to last.
What Makes Your Nail Curl Under
There are several reasons your toenail could grow curled instead of nice and straight. One is heredity.
Some people naturally have nails that curve under more than others. Others have a gait pattern that puts pressure on the edges of the toes. Then there is the chance that an injury to your toe damaged the matrix, and now it is growing out oddly. Tight shoes can be a problem too, as can a job or activity that causes repeated trauma from your shoes.
Finally, it can even come down to how you trim them. Straight across and not too short should be your mantra when you wield the clippers, and use a file or emery board just for smoothing any sharp edges at the corners—not for rounding them off.
Why Ingrown Toenails Hurt
It is actually the skin around the nail that is painful, not the keratin itself. Any time soft tissues experience undue pressure or irritation, your body rushes extra blood cells there to heal the damage. This can cause the flesh to puff up and become inflamed in and around the nail folds, which leads to the pain and redness around your toenail.
If the condition worsens, the edges of the nail can actually pierce the skin. Now you have not only pain, swelling, and inflammation, but also the risk of a bacterial infection (called paronychia). Sometimes a pocket of pus will appear, and there could be drainage and a bad odor as well.
What You Can Do at Home for Ingrown Nails
If you have diabetes, we do not recommend trying home treatment at all. The risks of injury and infection are much greater when you have this disease. Instead, come in and let our experts handle your painful nail safely.
If you are otherwise healthy, you could try simple home treatment to relieve your pain. Start by soaking the toe in warm, soapy water. If you suspect it may be infected, add salt to your soak solution. Then dry your feet well, including between the toes. At this point the nail will be soft and you might try to gently uncurl it. Follow this with a dab of antibiotic ointment and a bandage.
Doing this once or twice a day may decrease the irritation, and in a mild case, the nail may even start to grow a bit straighter. Of course, you will also need to wear shoes that have roomy fronts that won’t cramp your toes.
Long-Lasting Solutions to Your Foot, Toenail and Ankle Problems
The Most Effective Treatment for Ingrown Toenails
Chances are home treatments will only work temporarily to address pain and redness. They won’t stop your nail from growing the wrong way. The only sure way to do that is with a procedure called a matrixectomy. The curling sides of the nail will be removed, and the growth center at the edges treated with chemicals to destroy them. We will do this safely and with minimal pain in our office using local anesthesia. After the procedure, the nails will no longer grow those curved edges that were pressing into your toe.
For ingrown nails or any other foot problem, contact Ottawa Foot Practice for superb care and treatment. You can schedule an appointment right here on our website, or call our Ottawa, ON office at (613) 595-9700 to set up a visit. We want to help!