COMMON CAUSES OF INGROWN TOENAILS
By Bethesda, MD & Springfield, VA Podiatrist, Dr. Paul Ross of The Podiatry Center
A common condition and usually affecting the big toe, ingrown toenails can be slightly uncomfortable or very painful. Men have a tendency to get them more than women and adults are more inclined than children. That doesn’t mean that children can’t get ingrown toenails, though, especially since cutting the toenails wrong and ill-fitting shoes are the leading causes of ingrown toenails. Kids – and their feet – tend to grow quickly, needing new shoes and socks three times or more every year, so foot problems can be easy to overlook and easy for kids to get.
Trimming Your Toenails
Since the first impulse is to cut off the part of the nail digging into the skin, improper trimming is a very easy mistake to make. Improper trimming consists of two main things: cutting nails too short (or biting them) and tapering the sides of the nails.
Cutting your nails too short makes the skin “fold over” the nail, increasing the chances of getting an ingrown nail. Ingrown nails are less likely to (but still can) occur on the fingers.
Tapering the sides of your nails, especially your big toenail, tends to make the nail grow outward into the side bed. This can cause an uncomfortable ingrown toenail, where the nail grows into the skin. An infection can occur if the nail is left untreated or exposed to bacteria.
If Your Shoes Don’t Fit
Shoes that are too tight or loose can place added pressure on the toes, increasing your chances of getting an ingrown toenail. This is particularly true for people who spend time jogging or playing sports. The downward pressure on the big toe causes the nail to grow into the nail bed.
To lower your chances of getting an ingrown toenail, wear shoes that fit. Some tips for a good fit:
- Shoes that are not tight.
- Shoes that are not loose.
- Comfortable wiggle room for your toes.
- A wide toe box (rounded or square shoe); pointy shoes are not.
Socks Too Tight
This is pretty much the same concept, but can really aggravate the problem. If you combine socks that are too tight with shoes that don’t fit, the pressure on the toes makes ingrown toenails much more likely.
Even worse is if your socks and shoes don’t let your feet breathe. A warm, damp atmosphere can cause the skin around the nail to get soft. Coupled with pressure, this is perfect environment for a toenail to start growing into the skin, and you likely wouldn’t notice until weeks later. This type of environment also increases your chances of developing toenail fungus and athlete’s foot.
Additional Causes of Ingrown Toenails
Though these are the most common causes, there are a few others to be aware of.
- Trauma to the nail plate or toe, caused by stubbing your toe or dropping something on it.
- Bacterial infection.
- Predisposition: nail deformities, genetic susceptibility, or abnormally shaped nail beds.
Anyone who’s had an ingrown toenail knows that it can be a very painful experience, and the first urge is to cut the whole side off. This could make it worse and only serves as a temporary form of pain relief.
If you think you may have an ingrown toenail, please don’t hesitate to call The Podiatry Center of Bethesda, MD and Springfield, VA! Left untreated, this seemingly minor condition can get much worse and cause other problems. Of course, if you have diabetes or another condition that puts your feet at greater risk, see a doctor immediately to prevent severe foot problems.
Our Bethesda, Maryland (MD) and Springfield, Virginia (VA) Podiatry offices offer the most effective and state-of-the-art, quality podiatry care services with a smile to patients in our local community, including: Woodbridge VA, Fairfax VA, Annandale VA, Arlington VA, Alexandria VA, Burke VA, Gaithersburg MD, Potomac MD, Silver Spring MD, Rockville MD and Chevy Chase MD.
Return to a pain-free life and get back to the things you love!