Has your foot been feeling uncomfortable because your big toe hurts? The problem could be an ingrown toenail. About 5% of Americans have a problem with an ingrown toenail every year.

How can you tell if you have an ingrown toenail? If the corner or side of the nail is embedded deeply into the skin next to it, it’s ingrown. The condition usually affects your big toe. You may experience pain, swelling, or redness on and around the toe. As soon as you feel any of these symptoms, it’s time to take action. At Mountain View Foot & Ankle Institute, our board-certified podiatrist and surgeon David B. Glover, DPM, FACFAS, can help.

While at first it can present as a minor problem, an ingrown toenail, if not taken care of properly, can lead to surgery in which part or all of the toenail is removed. Surgery requires limiting your activities for at least two weeks and possibly longer.

Try home treatment for a few days

To avoid complications from an ingrown toenail, you can first try treating it at home. Soak your foot in warm saltwater two or more times a day for about 20 minutes. Dry thoroughly and put an antibiotic cream on the affected area. Keep your feet clean and wear clean socks and shoes. Take an over-the-counter pain reliever if necessary.

When to see the podiatrist for an ingrown toenail

If the symptoms don’t resolve soon, you need to see the podiatrist promptly. Symptoms can escalate to any of the following:

  • Pain even without putting pressure on the foot
  • Pain from just touching the toe
  • Marked swelling
  • Drainage, which is a sign of infection
  • Skin on and around the toe that is warm to the touch

Why ingrown toenails occur and how to prevent them

Sometimes personal habits can lead to an ingrown toenail. It’s never too late to change a habit that can harm your health.

Trimming incorrectly

You may be tempted to make a u-shaped curve when you trim your toenails. But to avoid an ingrown nail, you should trim the nail straight across. If you must have a curve, use a toenail clipper and a nail file to make just a slight curve at the very top of the nail.

Wearing improper shoes

Many fashionable women’s shoes, and even some men’s shoes, have pointed toes. These shoes may force your toes into a cramped, unnatural position, and the pressure and friction can result in an ingrown toenail.

Women’s high heels may also cause ingrown toenails. A heel that’s 2.5 inches increases the pressure on the ball of your foot, including your toes, by 75 percent. The extreme amount of pressure can cause the nail to sink into the flesh beside it.

Change your footwear if you’re starting to get an ingrown toenail that’s not from trimming your toes improperly. Your foot is sending you a signal to relieve the pressure on it. Wearing shoes with a wide enough bed and with low heels can make the difference between recurring problems with ingrown toenails — not to mention other foot problems — and feet that are healthy.

Call or book an appointment online with Mountain View Foot & Ankle for expert care that keeps you on your feet.