Your Ultimate Ingrown Toenail Prevention Guide
There’s a good chance you’ve heard the following:
“An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.”
This age-old pearl of wisdom will always hold up for a very simple reason—it’s absolutely true!
And the thing is, that saying applies in so many different areas and contexts. For example, it costs significantly less in the long run to perform routine maintenance and take your car in for regular oil changes—or do it yourself (if that’s an option)—than it does to eventually replace an engine or buy a new car, right?
Naturally, the “ounces of prevention and pounds of cure” adage can also be quite applicable in the medical field.
Sure, you’re certainly free to contact Heartland Foot and Ankle Associates for professional foot and ankle care when you need it, but the odds are quite good you’d prefer to avoid having a problem develop in the first place.
Fortunately, there are numerous ways you can do that!
With regards to the big, overall preventive measures, we’re talking about doing things like getting physical activity on a regular basis, eating foods that are good for you, and making sure you are getting plenty of sleep.
Of course, you can also take more specific measures to lower your risk for targeted issues and conditions—such as ones you can use to prevent ingrown toenails.
This particular medical issue causes pain and discomfort, can affect individuals of all demographics, and increases the risk of potentially dangerous infections for those who have diabetes.
Clearly, there are some very good reasons to avoid the situation altogether.
And with that being the case, we’re happy to share this with you:
The measures you need to take to prevent toenails from becoming ingrown do not really require all that much time or effort—yet they can potentially make a profound difference for you.
Ingrown Toenail Prevention 101
Okay, so how can you prevent ingrown toenails?
Start by using the following measures:
- Trim your toenails straight across. In some cases, this condition develops because the nails are rounded off when they’re cut. The likely reason for this particular trimming pattern is because it’s what people do with their fingernails. That doesn’t work quite so well with the nails on our lower digits, though, and can result in them digging into the sides as they grow out. Accordingly, you can lower your risk of an ingrown situation by keeping the ends straight (which will usually allow the nails to grow over—and not into—the skin flanking them).
- Don’t clip your toenails too short. As a good rule of thumb, try to keep your nails roughly even with the edge of their respective toes. The rationale here is that nails cut too short can be directed to grow into surrounding tissue with pressure from footwear (and hold that thought for just a second!). Keeping them at an appropriate length helps you to sidestep that whole ball of wax.
- Always opt for footwear that fits correctly. Shoes that are overly snug—and especially if they squash your toes together or place excessive pressure in the front—are a potential cause for ingrown toenails. This holds true for most kinds of footwear, but is especially applicable for sports and running shoes (on account of repetitive trauma when a foot continually hits against the inside of a shoe). Remember, you and your loved ones should always wear shoes that are neither too tight, nor too loose.
- Keep your feet safe on the job. If you work in an environment where there’s a risk of falling objects or you have to carry heavy items on a frequent basis, it’s incredibly important that you either wear safety shoes, steel-toed work boots, or other kinds of protective footwear. The good news is that employers generally need to comply with occupational safety laws and will require this. If you aren’t (and feel your feet are at risk), there’s no harm in taking some extra precautions—as long as your protective footwear fits correctly, of course!
- Don’t hesitate to ask for help. A job site isn’t the only place where you might potentially need to lift or move heavy objects. So if you have to do this at home (or elsewhere), ask a family member or friend for assistance. Barring an emergency situation, there’s really no need for you to attempt it on your own. (Plus, some extra help reduces your risk of throwing out your back.)
Hey, speaking of “asking for help,” don’t forget that our Heartland Foot and Ankle Associates team is here to help you with all your foot care needs—including professional treatment when a toenail becomes ingrown.
Now, if you’re wondering why we’d make note of professional treatment in a blog post centered on how to prevent ingrown toenails, consider this:
Some are the result of genetics and inherited foot structure—which means they’re unpreventable.
So with that being the case, sometimes the best way to prevent the same toenail from continually becoming ingrown is to remove the nail on a permanent basis.
But don’t worry!
A) Most patients do not need this and B) the procedure is done under anesthesia (so it’s not even close to being as painful as people tend to think).
Because the procedure is permanent, the toe will no longer have a nail and the skin where the nail used to be becomes thicker and less sensitive (so you don’t have to be concerned about having a hypersensitive situation at the front of your foot, either).
Caring for an Ingrown Toenail at Home
Our hope at HFAA is that you’re able to avoid the pain and discomfort that can accompany an ingrown toenail by using those prevention methods.
At the same time, we’ve been in the podiatry game long enough to know it’s difficult—if not outright impossible—to prevent conditions from happening sometimes. And when that’s the case, you can trust that we’ll be here to help if you need it.
With regards to treating ingrown toenails, it’s important to note that you might not even need to see us.
That said, if you are diabetic, have severe pain, or show signs of infection, you really should reach out for professional care.
If those don’t apply and you have a mild case—or were able to catch the problem early—you might be able to effectively resolve the problem via the following steps:
- Soak the affected foot in warm water three or four times in 15-20 minute sessions during the day to reduce swelling and relieve tenderness.
- After soaking your foot, gently lift the ingrown nail edge and place a clean, fresh bit of waxed dental floss underneath (to encourage the nail to grow over the skin, and not into it).
- Apply antibiotic ointment liberally on the sensitive area, and then cover it with a clean bandage.
- Wear open-toed shoes or sandals (not flip-flops) until the toe feels better.
- Take naproxen, ibuprofen, or acetaminophen to relieve the toe pain, but contact us first for dosage recommendations.
Comprehensive Foot and Ankle Care (When You Need It)
If home care isn’t good enough, it’s time to consider professional treatment—and when you do, we hope you’ll think of us here at HFAA!
Our team is dedicated to helping solve your foot and ankle problems—including ingrown toenails—so you can find relief from pain and get back to participating in your favorite activities.
Don’t let a problem like this hold you back! Instead, simply reach out to us by calling (309) 661-9975. Or you can connect with our Bloomington, IL podiatrist office and request your appointment online.