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Everyday Foot Problems

How to Prevent Ingrown Toenails

An ingrown toenail is one of the most painful foot conditions we often bring on ourselves. Although sometimes ingrown toenails are hereditary, they're most often caused by incorrect nail trimming -- and they become even more painful when they're squeezed by shoes that are too short and tight. Fortunately, there are simple steps you can follow to help prevent ingrown toenails.

The best tip for preventing ingrown toenails is: trim your nails straight across the top -- NOT in a rounded shape. In addition, avoid wearing shoes or socks that squeeze your toes together.

If you do get an ingrown toenail, it may cure itself as the nail grows. In the meantime, you can relieve the pain with the steps that follow. However, if you are diabetic or have poor circulation, seek professional attention.

  • Switch to longer shoes with a bigger toe box.

  • Soak your foot in a solution of one part povidone iodine to one part water once a day for 20 minutes to reduce inflammation.

  • Trim your nails as best you can. Do not try to "dig out" a deeply ingrown nail, however.

  • Apply an antiseptic once a day, preferably after a bath or shower. This is especially important, because one of the greatest dangers of ingrown toenails is the possibility of infection (see the next page for more information on this).

Your nail cuticle can also become sore as a side effect of an ingrown toenail. If this happens to you, you'll experience redness, swelling, and pain around the cuticle. To reduce the discomfort and inflammation and prevent fungal infection, soak your feet in a solution of one part povidone iodine to one part warm water twice a day for about 15 minutes each time, and apply antiseptic after each soak. Keep up this routine until the cuticle is free of pain and back to a normal appearance.

If an ingrown nail is left untreated or is forced too far into the skin by the pressure of shoes, it may not grow out on its own. The only treatment in this situation is to see a doctor, who can numb the toe and remove the offending portion of the nail permanently.

If an ingrown toenail gets worse, it may become infected. Or, injuries to your toes can result in an infection. Learn how to treat this condition on the next page.

To learn more about treating and avoiding problems with your feet, visit:

  • Foot Injuries: Find out how to avoid unpleasant injuries to your feet, or at least reduce pain and prevent infection after they occur, with these simple suggestions.
  • How to Care for Your Feet: Learn how to keep your feet -- and yourself -- healthy and happy with these tips on caring for your feet, including selecting the right shoes.
This information is solely for informational purposes. IT IS NOT INTENDED TO PROVIDE MEDICAL ADVICE. Neither the Editors of Consumer Guide (R), Publications International, Ltd., the author nor publisher take responsibility for any possible consequences from any treatment, procedure, exercise, dietary modification, action or application of medication which results from reading or following the information contained in this information. The publication of this information does not constitute the practice of medicine, and this information does not replace the advice of your physician or other health care provider. Before undertaking any course of treatment, the reader must seek the advice of their physician or other health care provider.