When a toenail curves under and grows into the tender skin of the toe, it can cause a lot of pain. This problem, called ingrown toenail since the nail grows into the toe instead of on top of it, can usually be avoided by good hygiene and well-fitting shoes.
Ingrown toenails most often occur on big toes. They may result from an injury to the toe. More commonly, they are caused by cutting toenails down the sides in an elongated curve rather than straight across, parallel to the tip of the toe. Another common cause is wearing tight shoes that compress the toes.
As an ingrown nail cuts into soft tissue around the top of the toe, you are likely to experience pain. An inflammation, with swelling and redness, may develop if the nail is attacked by the immune system. The sore place may become a site for infection.
Soak the foot in warm water to which you have added Epsom salts. This will relieve the pain and soften the nail and skin. Gently try to pull the skin away from the trapped edge of the nail. If successful, place a thin strip of cotton that has been soaked in castor oil between the skin and the edge of the nail. This will lift the nail slightly, preventing it from once again growing into the skin. Apply an antiseptic daily and keep the area clean and dry.
If the problem is severe or the area becomes infected, see your doctor. It may be necessary to perform a simple operation, using a local anesthetic, to remove the edge of the nail and some of the nearby skin. To combat infection, antibiotics may be prescribed.
Trim your toenails on a regular basis. Cut toenails straight across using toenail clippers. Keep the outside edges of the nail longer than the middle if you have frequent problems. File the corners to eliminate sharp edges.
Wear comfortable, non-pointed shoes that provide plenty of room for the toes. Do not wear tight socks or pantyhose, which also can cramp the toes. Protect the toes against injury; for ex- ample, it is advisable to wear steel-toed boots if you lift a lot of heavy objects.