Ingrown toenails. You’ve heard of them and know a few friends and family members who have had one. They are a fairly common foot issue that in most cases are easily treatable. As harmless as they appear, they can become serious health concerns for certain people with other health issues such as diabetes. They can also get infected if they aren’t treated, causing potentially excruciating pain and possibly irreparable damage to the toe. In some cases, the nail itself will need to be removed.
What Is an Ingrown Nail?
Normally, the toenail will grow over the flesh of the toe. This is because the nails act as a source of protection for the tip of the toe as well as for the old use of gripping the ground when barefoot. An ingrown nail, however, occurs when a nail grows into the flesh instead of on top of the flesh. These nail abnormalities typically occur on the big toes.
What Causes Ingrown Toenails?
There are multiple causes of ingrown toenails, most of which can be easily avoided. Below are their common causes:
Poor foot care. Cutting one’s nail too short and cutting rounded edges can cause the nails to grow into the side of the toe. To prevent an ingrown nail, avoid cutting the nail too short and cut the nails straight across.
Wearing ill-fitting shoes or tight hosiery. Wearing shoes that are too small not only crunch the toes, but they can cause the toenail to bend and grow around the nail, including growing into the side of the toes, whereby resulting in ingrown toenails. Wearing tight hosiery can have the same effects as tight shoes and the regular wearing of them can alter the proper growth direction of the toenail.
Injury or trauma to the toe. A toe that gets crushed, jammed, stubbed, stepped on or accidentally cut can cause the nail to split, crack or break. If not trimmed, the jagged, broken edges of the nail can curl and grow into the flesh of the toe.
Ingrown Toenail Risk Factors
While anyone can get an ingrown nail, some are at a higher risk than others. Below are some of the risk factors that can make them more likely to occur:
- Those with diabetes
- Those with numbness in their toes
- Those with unusually thick or curved toenails
- Those with vascular issues in their toes
Anyone can get an ingrown toenail and often treatment is as simple as wearing a different pair of shoes and making sure one properly trims his or her toenails. If left untreated, painful infections can occur. In bad cases, the toenail will need to be removed in order to stop the pain and spread of the infection. In cases with individuals with other serious underlying medical conditions, a toe that has gotten infected may be amputated.