An ingrowing toenail is a common complaint where the corner to the nail starts to grow in to the toe itself. They can be very painful but thankfully there are things you can do to minimise the chance of this happening to you, and things you can do to help if you start to develop one.
What you need to know
Ingrowing toenails usually occur at the big toe, but they can be found at any toe. They tend to get sore and possibly red and swollen on the outside edge of the nail, where it meets the toe itself. If it is allowed to develop the toe may get infected, which further adds to the pain and swelling (figure 1).
Figure 1 Shows the area an ingrowing nail can cause an infection
Once irritated, pointed or narrow shoes will be uncomfortable to wear, and it is important not to pick out the corner of the nail as this can make the future nail grow more directly into the toe (figure 2).
Figure 2 Shows the curve of an (extreme) ingrowing nail into the toe
You may need to see your GP if pus begins to come out of the infected area, if you begin to ge a high temperature or become hot and shivery, or you have diabetes and develop an ingrowing toe nail.
Practicing good nail care can be a huge influence over whether or not you develop ingrowing toenails. Keeping your nails trimmed without curving down into the corners can help them grow straight and reduce the risk of them curving at the edges and beginning to dig in to the toe.
Soak your feet in warm water Keeps the toenails soft and more pliable, making them much easier to cut well and reduce the chance of the cracking you cut them
Keep feet dry Reduces the chance of toe based infections that can affect the way your nails grow
Wear wide shoes Allows your toes space to breathe and reduces the forces pushing the nail into the toe, especially in the big toe
If you are concerned or want to learn about optimising your foot health, you should contact a chiropodist or podiatrist.