If you trim your toenails too short, particularly on the sides of your big toes, you may set the stage for an ingrown toenail. Like many people, when you trim your toenails, you may taper the corners so that the nail curves with the shape of your toe. But this technique may encourage your toenail to grow into the skin of your toe. The sides of the nail curl down and dig into your skin. An ingrown toenail may also happen if you wear shoes that are too tight or too short.
What are the causes?
An ingrown toenail can result from a number of things, but poorly fitting shoes and toenails that are not trimmed properly are the most common causes. The skin along the edge of a toenail may become red and infected. The great toe is usually affected, but any toenail can become ingrown.
Ingrown toenails may occur when extra pressure is placed on your toe. Most commonly, this pressure is caused by shoes that are too tight or too loose. If you walk often or participate in athletics, a shoe that is even a little tight can cause this problem. Some deformities of the foot or toes can also place extra pressure on the toe.
Nails that are not trimmed properly can also cause ingrown toenails.
- When your toenails are trimmed too short or the edges are rounded rather than cut straight across, the nail may curl downward and grow into the skin.
- Poor eyesight and physical inability to reach the toe easily, as well as having thick nails, can make improper trimming of the nails more likely.
- Picking or tearing at the corners of the nails can also cause an ingrown toenail
Some people are born with nails that are curved and tend to grow downward. Others have toenails that are too large for their toes. Stubbing your toe or other injuries can also lead to an ingrown toenail.
When to Seek Medical Care
Anytime an ingrown toenail has developed into an infection (drainage, a fever, lighter skin surrounded by red skin, or worsening pain and swelling), see a doctor.
Even if the ingrown toenail is only inflamed without infection, see a doctor if the following conditions also occur:
- If it has been more than five years since your last tetanus booster shot
- If there is no improvement after three days of home care
- If you have diabetes, poor circulation, AIDS, are on chemotherapy, or have another reason for poor wound healing or an increased risk of infection
Most ingrown toenails can be managed in the doctor’s office. However, go to the emergency department (by car, not ambulance) if these circumstances develop:
- If you have diabetes or are at increased risk for infection and your regular physician is unavailable (even if the toe is not infected yet)
- If you have diabetes or are at increased risk for infection and have any fever or signs of infection in the toe (Both bacterial and fungal infections are more common in immunocompromised people.)
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