There are many reasons a toenail can become infected, the one we see mostly in younger patients is an ingrowing toenail. The pain of an ingrowing toenail comes on gradually so is often just put up with, until eventually it is excruciating, inflamed, red and sore and possibly filled with pus.
Most common causes:
- Curved toenails (genetic predisposition)
- Cutting your toenail too short or too long
- Toenail injury
- Footwear which is too tight or narrow which puts pressure on the big toes
- Certain sports like Football, dance or skiing
- Poor foot hygiene (not keeping your feet clean and dry)
- Pain with pressure on your toe
- The skin next to your nail being tender to the touch, swollen or hard
- Skin growing over part of your toenail
- Pus coming from the painful area.
What can you do at home to help relieve the symptoms:
- Wear comfortable shoes
- Use ibuprofen and/or paracetamol to help with the pain
- Use an antibacterial spray to help avoid infection
- Soak your toe in warm salt water for 3-5 minutes. This should help relieve the pain and the salt has antibacterial properties. Do this several times a day. Dry feet thoroughly afterwards.
- Keep your feet dry at all times (unless soaking them!)
When to see a podiatrist:
- If you notice the area getting very red, hot and swollen
- If you are diabetic and have an ingrowing toenail
- Your ingrowing nail symptoms don’t go away or keep returning
It’s a good idea to get ingrowing toenails sorted sooner rather than later, so that further damage can be avoided as the altered gait brought about by an ingrowing nail can have effects further up the leg to the ankle, knee and hip.
Careful nail cutting and advice is sufficient for most patients, however, nail surgery is the permanent cure and takes very little time at all.