It’s no secret that our feet take a ton of abuse from us these days. Some studies have shown that up to 75% of people will have some sort of foot pain in their lives and many people, who depend on their feet for their job may even find themselves missing work! Busy schedules, fashion trends and even just not having proper education about caring for our feet lead to finding ourselves in a bad situation. One of the most common issues people have with their feet is also one of the most simple to treat and prevent: Ingrown Toenails!

***You can find yourself with an ingrown nail for several reasons: improper nail care, trauma and even ill-fitting shoes.***

(This a picture of the anatomy of a toenail.  From aaos.org)

    The nails of our toes grow from the nail bed under the skin. In the normal growth process the nails grow out straight but very close to the skin on the edges of the nail. When we stub our toes or have swelling that affects the toes, this can cause the nail edges to grow into the skin causing pain, swelling and inflammation!

    When trimming your nails it is important to use a clean, sharp set of clippers and trim them straight across. Rounding off the edges of nails can cause you to accidentally leave little barbs called spicules and these lead to ingrown nails. You also want to make sure that you leave enough nail left because trimming too short can also cause an ingrown nail and pain.

    Our shoes can even be a factor in the development of ingrown nails. If your shoes have a pointy tip that tends to squish your toes together…you could be setting yourself up for an ingrown nail!

(Picture of ill-fitting shoes. From A.D.A.M.)

    But it’s not all bad news. If you are careful to check your feet every few days you can catch and hopefully prevent an ingrown nail. Some people get relief from a piece of cotton inserted beneath the nail, to elevate the nail, or even some dental floss to raise the edge that is causing the pain.

    Lastly, a common problem associated with ingrown nails is localized infection. When the nail grows into the skin, bacteria on the surface of the skin “hitch a ride” into the new space where they can live happily and produce an infection. These infections will be swollen, painful and may even have pus around them and smell pretty gross.

***An infection, even of a toenail, is a serious issue! ESPECIALLY for diabetic patients who have decreased sensation and sometimes poor blood flow.***

    If you are worried about an ingrown nail be sure to visit your local Podiatrist. Depending on the severity treatment options may differ.

    Your ingrown toenail may need to be removed if it has progressed to the infected state. To perform the procedure the toe is cleaned and the nerves supplying the toe are numbed by a local injection. (Just a pinch!)

    Next, the nail is cut with a special tool and removed from the root. Your Podiatrist will then clean out the area and bandage it up! Most of the time antibiotics are not necessary and usually the only after-care needed is to soak the toe in warm, soapy water a few times a day and keep it bandaged properly.

    Although this may sound like a scary ordeal, the procedure is quite simple and performed in the Podiatrist’s office. Dr. Garibaldi and Dr. Harper both perform this procedure regularly and would be happy to help you get your feet back into perfect health.