What Happens To Your Body If You Don't Treat An Ingrown Toenail?

An ingrown toenail occurs when the corner of the toenail curls down and grows into your skin (via Cleveland Clinic). It typically affects the big toe. According to the American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons, ingrown toenails are usually the result of the way a person cuts their toenails. Trimming in a way that tapers the corners so the nail curves with the shape of the toe may encourage the nail to dig into the skin rather than grow normally. Wearing shoes that are too tight can also lead to ingrown toenails.

Signs of an ingrown toenail include a nail that is hard, swollen, or tender. Redness, pain, and swelling may also occur, which usually signals an infection. Untreated ingrown toenails can lead to serious infection that can make its way to the bone in the toe. This can result in foot ulcers, or open sores, and a loss of blood flow to the area, potentially leading to the decay and death of the tissue. This is especially concerning for people with diabetes, as an ingrown toenail can become infected quickly because of issues with blood flow and nerve sensitivity.

How to treat and prevent ingrown toenails

Ingrown toenails can usually be treated at home. Soaking the foot in warm water and Epsom salts, gently lifting the edge of the nail and putting dental floss or cotton between the nail and skin, and antibiotic creams are all ways to treat an ingrown toenail, according to the Cleveland Clinic. However, if symptoms don't get better in a few days or get worse, call your doctor. People with diabetes, severe nerve damage, or poor circulation should see their health care provider as soon as possible if they develop an ingrown toenail.

The best way to prevent an ingrown toenail is to cut your nails straight across the top and avoid rounding the corners. Soak your nails in warm water before trimming them or cut them after a shower or bath. Make sure to clean your trimmer or nail clipper before using and never tear or rip your nails. Finally, wear shoes that fit you properly and are not too loose or too tight around the toes.