Ingrown toenails are a common and painful problem created when the toenails grow into the deeper layers of surrounding skin. The main causes are improper trimming of toenails, wearing shoes that do not fit the foot’s structure, injuries, trauma, various medical problems, and genetics.    To avoid the development of ingrown toenails, it is important to be aware of causes of the problem so you can change your behavior and habits accordingly. This article will share some of the factors leading to this problem, precautions, and methods of prevention.
Primary causes of ingrown toenails:

1. Improper trimming of the nails

The most common cause for development of ingrown toenails is improper trimming of the nails. Surprisingly, even though we all learn to cut our nails at a young age, most of us cut them incorrectly – along the natural curved line of the nail or cutting them excessively, so that the end of the nail is not above the surrounding skin.


To prevent the problem, trimming should be done in a straight line, without leaving sharp edges at the side which could grow into the skin surrounding the nails. It is also recommended to use a nail trimmer and to ensure that it is cleaned after every use. In elderly people or those with diabetes, nails have a tendency to thicken, which makes it harder to trim them. In these cases, nails can be softened before cutting by soaking them in warm water with soap.


2. Family genetics

Every single one of us has a different nail shape which is genetically determined within our families. Inheritance is a matter of luck, and people with particularly curved nails or nails which spread upwards could develop ingrown toenails. The problem can actually begin in adolescence or even younger, among children or even babies. However, it is also possible that it will only appear much later in life.


3. Injury and trauma

The foot may be injured during athletic activity, on impact from the fall of a heavy object, or due to some other type of injury. These injuries could cause serious and sometimes irreversible damage which leads to ingrown toenails. This kind of damage includes injury to the nail bed leading to irregular new nail growth, loss of the nail altogether, breakage or change in the bone of the toe beneath the nail which could cause twisted growth of the new nail into the surrounding skin, and more.


To prevent these types of damage, it is important to exercise caution and protect the toes from injury. Athletes and people who work in physically highly risky jobs should be particularly careful.


4. Nail fungus (Onychomycosis)

A fungal infection of the big toenails is very common and usually develops in conditions of warmth and moisture. This infection could cause damage to the nail bed and distorted growth of the new nail.


The fungus may cause a sensation of itching, and can lead to thickening of the nails and changes in their color to yellowish-white or brown. To prevent fungal infection, it is important to dry well, including the spaces between the toes, every time you wash or rinse the feet. It is also recommended, as much as possible, to avoid wearing closed-toed shoes for extended periods of time. Additionally, change socks frequently and be sure they stay clean and dry.


5. Wearing poorly-fitting shoes

Shoes that do not properly, such as shoes that are too narrow or too tight, high-heeled shoes, shoes with pointed toes, sport shoes that do not fit the foot properly, put pressure on the toes and may cause the nails to grow into the surrounding skin. Shoes that are too big are also harmful because they put pressure on the toes while walking. Additionally, socks that are too tight or too large could cause the development of ingrown toenails for the same reasons.


To avoid this situation, it is best to purchase shoes that fit the foot properly from a specialty store. It is advisable to buy shoes in the afternoon, when the foot tends to have spread, to get a more accurate fit.


6. Medical conditions

Individuals who suffer from medical conditions and various problems such as diabetes, heart and kidney disease, thyroid imbalance, and obesity are at increased risk for development of various foot problems, particularly ingrown toenails. 


For example, individuals with diabetes suffer from impaired blood flow to the feet and a lack of sufficient sensation in the feet. Since these individuals do not feel the initial pain of the nail as it becomes ingrown, they neglect to take care of it and only come to a specialist when the situation becomes more serious. Another example is that of individuals with heart and kidney disease, who experience edema (swelling) in the feet. This edema creates pressure on the nails, which leads to the development of ingrown toenails.


Individuals suffering from various medical conditions must go above and beyond when it comes to taking care of their foot health. This includes checking their feet on their own and scheduling checkups regularly. In the event that symptoms of ingrown toenails occur, or there is pain in the foot, they should immediately seek advice and treatment from a professional podiatrist.


Awareness of the various causes of development of ingrown toenails and changes in the feet can significantly reduce the occurrence of problems. Being careful to trim nails properly, maintaining good foot hygiene, ensuring that shoes fit the shape of the foot, and taking safety steps to avoid injury to the foot are all important ways to avoid this unpleasant phenomenon.


If you experience pain and/or notice additional symptoms of ingrown toenails, contact a professional podiatrist without delay for diagnosis and treatment so you can avoid unnecessary complications.


For early diagnosis and treatment of ingrown toenails, please contact us.