The Three Most Common Causes of Ingrown Toenails
Milwaukee Foot & Ankle Specialists – Milwaukee, WI Podiatrists & Foot Surgeons
Ingrown toenails are a very common condition and usually happen on the big toe. Men tend to get them more often than women and adults are usually more susceptible than children. However, that’s not to say that children can’t get them, especially when leading causes include cutting the toenails wrong and ill-fitting foot wear. These can be easy to miss because kids – and their feet – tend to grow quickly, often needing new shoes and socks three or more times in a year.
This article describes some of the causes of ingrown toenails and will serve as an introduction to several more in-depth articles on the topic. You’ll also learn what some of the worst-case scenarios are, home treatment options, and when to seek out the help of a professional.
This is such an easy mistake to make, since the first urge is to cut off the part of the nail digging into the skin. Improper trimming entails two things: cutting the nails too short (or in some cases, biting them) and tapering the sides of the nails while they’re too short.
Cutting your nails too short enables the skin to begin to “fold over” the nail, increasing the likelihood of developing an ingrown nail. Though ingrown nails are less likely to happen on the fingers, they are still possible.
Tapering the sides of your nails, especially your big toenail, encourages growth outward into the side bed of the nail. This can result in a painful ingrown toenail, where the nail grows into the skin. If left untreated or exposed to dirt and bacteria, an infection can occur.
Shoes that are too tight or too loose can cause ingrown toenails, too, by placing added pressure on the toes. This is especially true for people who spend time jogging, running, or playing sports. The downward pressure from the shoe, especially on the big toe, causes the nail to grow abnormally into the nail bed.
The best way to make sure you don’t get an ingrown toenail this way is to wear shoes that fit well. Tips for a good fit:
• Shoes aren’t tight.
• Shoes aren’t loose.
• Comfortable wiggle room for your toes.
• A wide toe box (rounded or square shoe) is best; pointy shoes are not ideal.
Tight Socks or Stockings
This is essentially the same concept as when shoes are too tight, but can really exacerbate the problem. If you combine socks that are too tight with shoes that don’t fit well, the pressure on the toes increases and makes ingrown toenails much more likely to occur.
What’s worse is if your socks and shoes don’t allow your feet to breathe. This creates a warm, damp environment that can cause the skin around the nail to soften. When combined with pressure, this is an ideal environment for a toenail to begin growing into the skin, and you probably wouldn’t even notice it until weeks later once it’s already in your nail bed. Ouch!
Other Causes of Ingrown Toenails
Though these are the most common causes and we’ll later cover prevention and home care, there are a few other things that can cause ingrown toenails.
• Trauma to the nail plate or the toe, which can be caused by stubbing your toe or dropping something on your toe.
• Bacterial infection.
• Some form of predisposition: nail deformities, genetic susceptibility, or abnormally shaped nail beds.
Anyone who’s ever had an ingrown toenail – even a little bit – knows that it can be a very painful experience, and the first urge is to cut the whole side off as much as possible. This could make the condition worse and only serve as a very temporary solution to the problem.
Read the next article in this set about how to properly trim your toenails for the best lasting results and better long-term prevention of ingrown toenails.