“I’m Sure This Will Go Away” and Other Myths about Ingrown Toenails

There are a lot of misconceptions out there when it comes to anything related to medicine. In podiatry, one of the most misunderstood conditions is an ingrown toenail. Today, let’s look at some common myths about ingrown toenails.

What is an ingrown toenail?

An ingrown toenail occurs when the edge of a toenail grows into the skin rather than straight out. It occurs equally in women and men and presents with pain, redness, and swelling. Ingrown toenails may occur due to a simple genetic predisposition or they can occur after cutting the corners of toenails rather than straight across. 

Myths About Ingrown Toenails

There are plenty of myths surrounding ingrown toenails and your FAAWC providers are here to dispel them for you.

Myth: This will go away by itself

Ingrown toenails will not just disappear. Without treatment, the nail will continue to grow into the skin, causing additional pain. Even cutting away the ingrown corner will not help as the nail regrows in the same direction. 

Myth: You have to have misshapen toenails to get an ingrown toenail

Ingrown toenails can happen to anyone for many reasons. Some of the most common include:

  • Genetic predisposition
  • Improper toenail cutting
  • Curved nails
  • Wearing shoes that put pressure on the toes
  • An injury to a toenail
  • Improper hygiene (leaving feet sweaty)

Myth: Ingrown nails only happen on the big toe

While the big toe is the most common toe to see an ingrown toenail, it can occur on any nail of the foot (or hands). It is more likely to occur on the second toe if it is longer than the big toe.

Myth: Kids don’t get ingrown toenails

Big myth. In fact, teenagers are especially prone to ingrown toenails. Kids may get ingrown toenails from shoes that become too tight as they grow. Kids also participate in many sports (such as soccer and football) that put pressure on toenails. Kids who begin cutting their own toenails may do so improperly, leading to an ingrown. In short, kids are at just as much risk as adults. 

Myth: If I cut the edges of my nails, ingrown toenails won’t happen to me

Nooooo. Don’t do that. Cutting the edges of toenails can be a factor in causing an ingrown toenail. And cutting the corners after an ingrown has occurred will not prevent it from reforming. Additionally, cutting away a corner may leave your skin broken and open to infection. 

Myth: I can treat my ingrown toenail with cream or some medicine

While creams or over-the-counter pain medications might dull the ache of an ingrown toenail, they cannot magically cure it. The best and lasting solution is to see a podiatrist and have the corner of the nail removed.

Myth: The only way to treat an ingrown toenail is to have the whole nail removed

The procedure to fix an ingrown toenail almost never requires removing the entire nail. Rather, the ingrown portion is cut away so the nail goes straight across. The nail bed underneath that corner will also be treated to prevent cells from building up and causing another ingrown.

Myth: Ingrown toenail treatment is always painful and scary

Not at all! A numbing agent is applied to the toe and nail before the procedure. The cutting of the nail is painless and the entire procedure is quick. You may experience some minor discomfort in the area as the numbing wears off, but any significant amount of pain means you should return to your podiatrist.

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