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Number 1 Cause of Ingrown Toenails

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If you have ever suffered from an ingrown toenail, you know how painful it can be. It often starts off as a minor irritation, and you try and fix it by yourself, then it can suddenly turn into Mount Vesuvius with blood and pus everywhere. I haven’t painted a particularly enticing picture have I (unless you are a fan of Dr Pimple Popper)?

There are a number of causes of ingrown toenails:

  1. Incorrect footwear – if you wear too tight shoes, this can cause chronic damage to the nails, especially on the nail of the big toe. A tight toe box (that is the area over the top of your toes) can press the nail into the skin, and if you have any rough or sharp edges on your toenail, this will cause it to puncture your skin.  As there are a lot of germs on your feet, once this has happened, it usually gets infected very quickly.
  2. Poor cutting technique – most people follow the round edge of the toenail when cutting your toenails. But when you get to the edge of the nail, your toenail scissors or clippers cannot physically get down into the corner, so most people just tear that last bit off. Sadly, toenails never tear cleanly, they tend to tear into jagged pieces, which in due course will cut into the soft skin on the side of the nail and become ingrown and infected.
  3. Genetic – this is always a lottery as to the type of things you inherit from your family. Ingrown toenails are definitely one of those problems.  Some people inherit convoluted nails, this means that the edge of the nail curves into the skin. Then these people will often try and fix it themselves and just make it worse.

But the number one reason we see in the clinic for ingrown toenails (drumroll please)……. PICKING YOUR NAILS! Yes! I saw 3 people in one day last week, and everyone of them had ingrown toenails from picking their nails. Some people have a convulsion to do it, some people who have anxiety do it. Whatever the reason for picking, it isn’t a good thing to do. Like poor cutting techniques, when you tear that piece of nail from the corner of your toe, it never rips cleanly, but will leave a small jagged edge that will puncture your skin, and you are off to the races.

What Can I Do If I Have An Ingrown Toenail?

Firstly, wash your hands, then wash your toe with salt water. You can buy saline sachets from the chemist or supermarket. Or you can make your own by using boiled water from your kettle, pour some into a dessert bowl, and stir in a teaspoon of salt. Let it cool and use this to wash your toe.

Once you have done that, pat it dry and apply betadine solution or ointment to the area.  Then cover it with a bandaid.  If you do this and it has not improved in 2 days (like you can touch it without jumping through the roof), you may have caught it in time.  If there is no improvement, now it is time to come and see a podiatrist.  See I said a podiatrist here, not your GP. GP’s will often prescribe antibiotics if the area is infected, which does help, but it DOES NOT CURE the ingrown nail.

We can remove the small jagged piece of nail, so your toe can heal up. If you do not remove that piece of nail it will never heal up, but usually deteriorate. I cannot tell you how many people I have seen over the years who thought it would just heal up, for the toe to become so inflamed and infected that the only solution was surgery.  If we get to it early, you can avoid this.

If you suffer from ingrown toenails, or have an ingrown toenail, PLEASE don’t hesitate to contact us on 9542 3491.

Til next week

The Team from Sutherland Podiatry Centre

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