Why Does My Ingrown Toenail Keep Coming Back?

Posted by Dr. Brian Nagy on June 7, 2017

graphic of ingrown toenailIngrown toenails are painful and can interrupt your day-to-day activities by making it painful to walk. While they are easy to fix, some people do experience recurring ingrown toenails that grow into the flesh of the toe over and over again.

The same issues that cause an initial ingrown toenail also cause the condition to recur including incorrectly fitting footwear and incorrect toenail trimming technique. The size and shape of your toenail can also contribute to recurring ingrown nails.

What is an ingrown toenail?

An ingrown toenail occurs when the toenail grows in a downward curve into the fleshy part of the toe. They are most common on the big toe, although they can develop on any of your toes. When the toenail grows into the flesh it can cause infection and inflammation resulting in quite a bit of pain which can lead to temporary mobility issues.

You’ll recognize the symptoms of an ingrown toenail. Your toe will be red and swollen, and may discharge pus, particularly around the area where the toenail is growing into the toe. It will also be warm and tender to touch. It is common to feel pain when you put shoes on or take a step.

What causes ingrown toenails?

One of the most common causes of ingrown toenails is incorrect trimming technique. You should always cut your toenails in a straight line and keep them short but not so short that you can see a lot of flesh between the end of your nail and the end of your toe.

It is also important to wear shoes that fit correctly, including sufficient room in the toe box. Pointed-toe shaped shoes and high heels are the worst culprits for putting too much pressure on the toes. When your shoes compress your toes, this can push your nail to grow into the nailbed, leading to ingrown toenails.

Trauma, including repeated pressure from activities like running, can also cause toenails to grow into the nail bed.

Heredity is also a contributing factor to ingrown toenails and may be one of the most common issues that lead to recurring ingrown nails. Some people grow toenails that are just too large for the toe which makes them more susceptible to growing into the nailbed. This can often lead to ingrown toenails redeveloping even after you’ve had surgical treatment

How are ingrown toenails treated?

Treatment for ingrown toenails is relatively straightforward. Your trusted podiatrist will make an appointment for you as soon as possible to treat your ingrown nail quickly. If you have to wait a day or so before an appointment is available you can soak your toe in warm water with Epsom salts to control any inflammation and wear shoes that allow for plenty of room around your toes.

Once you are in the podiatrist’s office for treatment, after applying a local anesthetic he will cut out the portion of your toenail that has grown into your flesh. He may prescribe a topical cream or ointment as well as antibiotics to fight off any infection that may be present.

What is the best treatment to keep ingrown toenails from redeveloping?

For patients who suffer from frequent in-grown toenails, the podiatrist may suggest cauterizing your nail to prevent it from growing out from the edges and into the flesh. If this treatment is effective, your nails will grow out normally, but the width will be controlled, preventing the nail from curving into the flesh.

How can I prevent ingrown toenails?

It’s important for you to take good care of your feet to prevent ingrown toenails and other uncomfortable foot issues. As mentioned above, make sure that you wear shoes that fit correctly, especially if you participate in sports or walk frequently. You should take care when trimming your toenails to cut them straight across and not let the ends curve down to create a rounded edge. And you should always seek professional treatment if you experience foot pain or symptoms of an ingrown toenail. Ingrown nails are always more easily treated when they are caught early, whether it is your first or your fifth time.

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Topics: Ingrown Toenails

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