There are few things in life that are as painful (and annoying) as an ingrown toenail. What starts as a little discomfort can swiftly transform into debilitating pain. If you've ever dealt with this affliction, you know what I'm talking about. Officially known as "unguis incarnatus," this seemingly minor ailment can cause serious damage if left untreated. In fact, the Mayo Clinic states that if untreated, it may lead to a bone infection. No thank you!
Unfortunately, as many have learned, ingrown toenails don’t simply go away. Should the area become infected, it may be necessary to undergo surgery. To avoid these complications, it's important to take charge and actively treat the toenail. While it's easy to understand why it should be treated, how exactly do toenails become ingrown?
Ingrown toenails are equal opportunists. That is, any appendage with a nail can become ingrown. However, the majority of cases involve your big toe. As with other ailments, your genetics play a big factor (thanks, Mom and Dad). But, this isn't the only reason. Other causes of ingrown toenails include:
Properly fitting shoes affect more than your comfort. Should you try to squeeze your size nine foot into a size eight shoe, the tip of your nail will literally dig into your skin. Over time, this can cause the nails to grow in the wrong direction. Embrace your shoe size, or risk the dreadful experience of an ingrown nail.
Improper Nail Maintenance
Contrary to popular belief, trimming your toenails is not the same as your fingernails. Instead of cutting toenails in an oval, as you would fingernails, cut them in a straight line. Failure to do so can cause toenails to be pushed into your skin, which ultimately causes the nails to grow into the surrounding skin.
Stubbing your toe is one of life's cruelest injuries. Along with an inordinate amount of pain, if you stub your toe and the nail is pushed under the skin, the surrounding skin can quickly grow over the nail. If this happens, get ready for one killer ingrown toenail.
If you have diabetes, you should be on high-alert for ingrown toenails. Should you find yourself afflicted with ingrown toenails on a regular basis, it's important to discuss this with your physician. Those with diabetes often experience desensitized feet. Therefore, even a small injury can cause significant issues. Carefully monitor the health of your nails and take part in regular - and appropriate - nail maintenance.
What does an ingrown toenail look like?
Thankfully, an ingrown toenail isn't a hidden affliction and symptoms are typically universal. However, if you have decreased foot sensations due to a disease, such as diabetes, you may not immediately feel it. There are several common symptoms you should look for:
- Nail bed pain/irritation - sensitive to the touch
- The affected toe is swollen and red
- An infected toenail typically secretes blood and pus
Should your toes demonstrate any of these symptoms, chances are you have an ingrown toenail. Once identified, you must act quickly to prevent a minor ailment from becoming a serious condition.
The following methods can help treat and eliminate ingrown toenails at home. However, they aren't guaranteed for everyone. Should it not clear up after self-treatment, contact your physician.
1. Foot Soak
2. Cotton Ball Remedy
3. Additional Pain-Relieving Home Remedies
By far, the most frustrating part of ingrown toenails is the pain. These remedies may help reduce pain while supporting the healing process:
- Apple Cider Vinegar: Pour a capful of apple cider vinegar into a small bowl. Dip a cotton ball into the solution and apply to the ingrown toenail. This remedy may help reduce the likelihood of developing a serious infection by nourishing the skin.
- Eucalyptus Oil: The active compounds in eucalyptus oil may help reduce pain and ward off the risk of infections. Soak a cotton ball with pure eucalyptus oil and gently rub over the afflicted area.
- Lemon Slices: Rub a thin slice of lemon over the afflicted area. Gently press the lemon slice directly over the ingrown toenail and secure it in place with a bandage. Keep it on overnight. The acid content of lemons may help fight off and prevent infections.
As a general rule of thumb, try and stay off your feet as much as possible until the ingrown toenail is healed. Wear comfortable shoes or sandals. Better yet, go barefoot! Once healed, try to avoid the mistakes that may have caused the ingrown toenail in the first place.
Of course, you should always visit your doctor if symptoms progress or don't improve. Thankfully, with diligence and patience, even the most stubborn ingrown toenail can heal.
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