The pain of an ingrowing toenail can be unlike any other. The sharp stabbing sensation with every step you take can be very hard to live with. Whether you’ve got a predisposition to them, you’ve overdone the nail clipping, been squeezing into those shoes that are a little too tight or they come as a side effect of your regular workout, here’s some information to help you understand what’s causing it and how to help alleviate the pressure.
What is ingrowing toenail?
With an estimated 10,000 new cases* in the UK each year, ingrown toenail is very common. It develops when the sides of the toenail grow into the surrounding skin – causing redness, inflammation and sometimes leading to a localised infection.
What are the symptoms of ingrowing toenail?
The big toe is most commonly affected – either on one or both sides of the nail. The first signs include redness around the nail bed, overgrowth of the skin at the end of the toe and pain if pressure is applied to the area. More progressive symptoms can include infection where fluid oozes from the nail (usually yellow or green in colour), bleeding and increased levels of pain.
What causes an ingrowing toenail?
An ingrowing toenail typically affects teenagers and young adults the most. A number of things can cause an ingrowing toenail to develop and if left untreated, infection could develop and spread over the toe.
Many things can cause an ingrowing toenail, including:
- Cutting toenails incorrectly, too short, and around the edges encourages the nail to grow into the skin.
- Wearing tight-fitting shoes, socks or tights that put a lot of pressure on the big toes makes nails more likely to pierce the skin.
- Sweaty feet can lead to softer skin around the nail, making it easier for it to pierce and embed itself.
- A toenail injury such as stubbing your toe, dropping something heavy on your foot or kicking a ball repeatedly.
- Irregular, naturally curved toenails are more likely to press into the surrounding skin.
Top tips for avoiding and managing an ingrowing toenail
Ingrown toenails are not usually serious, however in some cases without treatment, an ingrown toenail could become infected. The following steps can help manage an ingrowing toenail:
- Keeping feet clean, washing them regularly with soap and water and dry them thoroughly. Pushing skin away from toenail edge with a cotton ball soaked in olive oil.
- Wearing comfortable, well-fitted shoes.
- Cutting toenails straight across the top to help prevent them from embedding in the skin.
- If you have an existing condition such as diabetes, poor circulation, a reduced immune system or if the toenail does not respond to home treatments or an infection occurs, please contact your local healthcare professional for further advice.
*Figures from the Pharmaceutical Journal. Accessed: July 2018.
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