Condition Care Guide
What is ingrown toenail?
Ingrown toenails occur when the corners of the nails on the feet curl down and push into the skin of the toe.
What are the symptoms?
This common problem can cause redness, swelling and pain in the affected toe. Favoring the non-affected foot while walking can contribute to low back pain and other postural problems. Don't neglect ingrown toenails - they can lead to serious infections, especially if you have diabetes or other conditions that affect the circulation and nerve function of your feet.
What are the causes?
Uneven or improper pressure on the nail bed promotes the downward bending of the toenail. The major causes are poorly fitting shoes and improperly cut nails. Tight shoes press the sides of the nail and force it to curl downward into the skin. Nails can also grow outward into the skin when you cut off their corners or trim them too short. Ingrown toenails also occur when a nail is too big for the toe or when nails thicken with age, changing the way they curve. Sometimes, the natural curl of the nail can be the problem. In addition, trauma - stubbing your toe or having something fall on your foot - can cause an ingrown toenail.
What is the conventional treatment?
Medical treatment usually isn't required. However, seeing a physician is recommended if pain and swelling continue or worsen despite home remedies, or if any infection appears to be spreading. To treat an ingrown toenail yourself, soak the affected foot in warm water for 15 to 20 minutes and push some dry absorbent cotton under the corner of the nail. Be sure to change the cotton frequently. If these measures don't help, minor surgery may be recommended to remove the portion of the nail that is digging into the toe. When the problem is a recurring one, your physician may recommend removing part of the toenail and some of the underlying nail bed to prevent the troublesome part of the nail from growing back. This can be done with a laser or with chemicals.
What therapies does Dr. Weil recommend for ingrown toenail?
In addition to the home remedies described above, cutting a "v" shaped notch into the top of the nail will help draw the edges of the nail together. You can also carefully file the middle top of the entire nail to make it thinner, which changes the stresses on the nail bed and encourages growth toward the middle of the toe. To prevent ingrown toenails, wear properly fitting shoes and be sure to trim nails straight across without tapering the edges.