Ingrown toenails walk tenderly into my office on a daily basis.  Treating ingrown toenails is one of the everyday procedures that podiatrists perform on a weekly if not daily basis. 

Ingrown toenails are basically sharp edges of nails that grow into the skin at the edges of the nail.  The edge of the nail normally only grows outward and away from the skin but this can go awry if you're not careful.  So why does this happen?

I've said it before and I'll say it again.  Don't wear tight shoes!  Your toes need plenty of space so give yourself a big toe box with space above and in front of your toes.  Tight shoes force the nails downward and can eventually cause your toenails to become rounded.  Believe it or not you can actually predispose yourself or your children to ingrown toenails if the shoes worn are too tight.  When your toes are still developing during childhood, you can cause permanently rounded nails that can dig into the skin with any downward pressure.  There are also some people with naturally rounded nails that are more likely to develop ingrown toenails.

The actual cause of the ingrown nails is almost always tight shoes and improper nail care.  People that don't wear shoes will never (well, I'll say almost never) develop ingrown toenails.  When cutting your nails always cut straight across and be careful not to cut them too short, especially on the sides of the nail. You definitely want to stop cutting before the nail attaches to the skin. 

Another factor that can increase your risk is weight bearing trauma to the toes.  When playing basketball for instance, if you have tight shoes you are constantly slamming your toes into your shoe and the floor which is pushing the skin into the nail.  The more you damage the skin the more inflamed it can become and the skin may actually grow and swell up over the nail (if the nail is cut too short). 

What does this mean for you? If you commonly get ingrown toenails then take a look at your shoes.  They are probably too small.  If you live in warm weather you can wear open toes shoes to stop ingrown nails.  Be more conservative when cutting your nails and don't cut your nails too often. 

Ingrown toenails can develop and get out of control quickly.  They often get infected and swollen and very painful.  In this case you should make your way to your local podiatrist who is equipped with the tools and expertise necessary to return your nails to normal.  Seriously, you can walk in with extreme pain and walk out feeling great.  Actor Mark Wahlberg recently underwent a procedure for an ingrown toenail and showed up at the Critics Choice awards that same night.  Recovery from these simple procedures is quick and the pain relief is instant. 

If you have any questions about your shoe gear, feet, or nails, make an appointment with your local podiatrist at Affiliated Foot and Ankle Care located in Edison and Monroe NJ today.

By Varun Gujral