Ingrown toenail, also known as onychocryptosis, is the growth of the edge of the nail into the skin of the toe. It is most common with the big toe. Ingrown toenail causes inflammation at the early stage. This inflammation causes minimal discomfort initially but could quickly progress to cellulitis in the surrounding skin.
Causes of an ingrown toenail
Several factors could cause ingrown toenail including the following:
- Incorrect cutting of toenail: when cutting the toenail, simply cut straight across without angling the sides of the nail otherwise you will be encouraging ingrown toenail
- The shape of the toenail: irregular, curved toenail often grows into the surrounding skin.
- Tight footwear: wearing tight shoes and socks could put too much on the toes especially the big toe forcing the nail into an awkward position ultimately resulting in an ingrown toenail.
- Toenail injury: injury to the toenail can force it to grow into the adjacent skin. Kicking a ball repeatedly with your toe, dropping heavy things on your toe, and stubbing your toe are some of the causes of injuries to the toenail.
- Bad foot hygiene: failure to keep your feet clean and dry is also a cause of ingrown toenail.
- Poor posture: walking or standing consistently in an unnatural position could cause the toenail to put pressure on the surrounding skin hence resulting in an ingrown toenail.
Genetic predisposition, congenital toenail deformity, obesity, diabetes, arthritis, fungus infection, edema, and hyperhidrosis are also causes of an ingrown toenail.
Who is prone to an ingrown toenail?
Athletes: athletes especially those who engage the feet extensively, e.g. soccer, tennis, and basketball, are more prone to an ingrown toenail. The consistent pressure put on the toes as well as tight footwear makes them very susceptible to an ingrown toenail.
People with sweaty feet: sweaty feet allow several infections including fungus infection to breed around the toe. These infections could result in an ingrown toenail.
Men: statistics have also shown that men have more incidents of ingrown toenail than women. This could perhaps be because men naturally engage more in activities that put pressure on their toes and don’t pay attention to their toes hygiene as much as women.
Treatment of ingrown toenail
An ingrown toenail can be a very unpleasant experience. Sometimes, people undergo surgery to have it corrected. Fortunately, you don’t always have to go through surgery, there are other options. An ingrown toenail can be managed at home with home remedies for fungus if it is not yet infected. Home remedies include:
Soak in warm and soapy water
To alleviate the pain and swelling of the affected foot, soak it in warm and soapy water for at least three times a day. Often, doctors advise addition of salt to the water. Let each soaking last about 20 minutes.
Soak in apple cider vinegar
Believed to be rich in anti-inflammatory and antiseptic properties, apple cider vinegar is a folk remedy for a lot of issues. For ingrown toenail treatment, soak the affected foot in a mixture of warm water and apple cider vinegar, ¼ of a cup. Leave for about 20 minutes and dry the foot very well afterward.
Apply antibiotic ointment
There are several over-the-counter antibiotic creams or ointment that offer effective treatment against infection. They reduce the risk of infection and enhance healing. Apply the ointment to the affected area as advised by the manufacturer.
Push skin away from the toenail edge
Use a cotton ball soaked in olive oil to push the skin around the nail away from the edges of the toenail.
Wear comfortable shoes and socks
Tight shoes and socks are one of the leading causes of ingrown toenail hence in order to see a quick recovery from an ingrown toenail, wear shoes that do not crowd the toes by leaving enough space in the toe bed. If you can stay off shoes totally during the healing period of an ingrown toenail, do it.
Other treatments include:
Toe braces are designed to protect the skin from the sharp edges of the nail. They also lift the edges of the nail as it grows hence ensuring they don’t put pressure on the surrounding skin.
The surgical procedures available for treating ingrown toenails are diverse. There is the partial nail removal that just removes the edge of the nail digging into the skin.. The National Health Service (NHS) says partial nail removal is 98 percent in the prevention of future occurrence of ingrown toenails.
On the other hand, if the reason for your ingrown toenail is the thickening of the nail, then total nail removal may be necessary. Your toenail will grow back in no time.