Defending Against Ingrown Toenails
If you are a Harry Potter fan, you know there were a number of “Defense Against the Dark Arts” teachers who caused more harm than good. We want to instruct you about defending yourself against the menace of an ingrown toenail, but we have no secret alliances or hidden agendas. We’re just foot doctors who care about your feet and want to help you keep them healthy.
What’s the Problem?
The medical term—onychocryptosis—could sound like a magic spell, but when you break down the word it’s quite simple: onycho=nails, crypto=hidden or buried, and sis=condition; thus, it is “a condition in which the nail is buried or hidden.” That pretty much sums up the problem.
Why Does It Happen?
There are several possible causes, including heredity. Some people are just born with nails that will naturally curl down and press into the skin of the toes as they grow. A fungal nails can also be a problem if it becomes too thick or part of it breaks off. An injury to the nail can cause it to jam into the skin, and even damage the root so it keeps growing out in the wrong way. In these situations, the nail itself is the culprit, but sometimes the problem is caused by the skin.
If your footwear pinches or rubs against the toe, it can push the skin into and over the side of the nail. This is one of the reasons kids are vulnerable, since they are always outgrowing their shoes and wearing pairs that are really too tight. The case can be made for certain women’s shoe styles as well, such as pointed flats or high heels that push the foot forward into the toe box.
Even an otherwise roomy shoe that doesn’t have the right shape for your foot can end up causing issues. Then there is the way you trim your nails. If you cut off the corners, there is nothing to keep the skin at the sides from pressing in against the nail. In these examples, the problem lies more in the skin and flesh.
Symptoms of Ingrown Nails
You might be surprised how badly an ingrown toenail can hurt. If you happen to bump it, the pain can be excruciating. This is because the nail may pierce the skin and open it to infection, or the soft tissue at the side can swell up, causing pain when there is pressure against it. If you see red streaks leading away from the painful area, or there is yellow or greenish pus seeping from the area, you should get help right away to avoid serious consequences with the toe.
What You Can Do at Home
You may be able to take care of a mild case on your own. The best home remedy is to soak the foot in tepid water and use massage to help reduce inflammation. Adding some Epsom salts to the water may soothe and help fight infection.
Don’t try to cut away the nail yourself. The risk of infection is quite high, especially if you have a compromised immune system or poor circulation. Besides, repeated cutting away of the nail may only make the condition worse.
Call Our ingrown toenail Doctors for Help
If the toenail doesn’t improve after a few days of home care, it’s time to call in the experts. We won’t be able to cast a spell to make your ingrown toenail better, but we can examine you, prescribe an antibiotic if needed, and even perform minor surgery on the toe in a sterile environment to fix the problem. These are not serious procedures, and most people are able to resume regular activity the next day.
Whether your nail or your skin is causing your painful, red, swollen toe, call our ingrown toenail doctors with Southern California Foot & Ankle Specialists at (949) 364-9255 (WALK) and let us take care of it for you. The relief will seem like magic!