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Ingrown toenails are a common condition which occurs when the corners or side of a toenail grows into the surrounding skin. This may result in pain and swelling or even infection. Although ingrown toenails can occur in any toe, it most often affects the big toes.  

There are several causes of ingrown toenails which include cutting your toenails either too short or not straight across. Both of these cases increase the chances of the toenail growing into the surrounding skin of the toe.

 Injury to the toenail during sports for example may also increase the risk of ingrown toenails. 

Finally, wearing footwear that causes crowding of the toes may increase the risk as well.  

The good news is that most cases of ingrown toenails can effectively be treated at home. Soaking your feet in warm water for 15 minutes a few times a day will help to reduce swelling and tenderness. After each soaking, place a small piece of cotton or waxed dental floss under the ingrown toenail. This will help the nail grow above the skin’s edge. 

 If necessary, take medications such as acetaminophen or ibuprofen to relieve pain. 

Wearing sandals or open-toed shoes may help allow the toe to breathe and heal more quickly.  

It is important to note that if your pain is very severe and spreading or you notice pus around the toenail, it is advisable to seek medical attention as soon as possible.  

Individuals who have diabetes should also contact their doctor if they suspect an ingrown toenail. If severe cases are not treated promptly, they may cause a serious bone infection.

Usually, your doctor will be able to diagnose an ingrown toenail based on your symptoms and by physically examining the affected area. 

If home remedies have failed, your doctor may suggest partially removing the part of the toenail that is ingrown.  

If this procedure fails or you repeatedly get an ingrown toenail on the same toe, your doctor may remove a portion of the nail and nail bed.  This will prevent that part of the nail from growing back. 

 If infection is present, oral or topical antibiotics may be prescribed.     

Here are a few tips on how to prevent an ingrown toenail. First of all, trim your toenails straight across and not curved. 

 To add to this, do not trim your toe nails too short. Keep them in line with the tips of your toes. Cutting the nails too short may cause them to grow in to the surrounding tissue.  Lastly, wear proper fitting footwear.  Shoes that cause the toes to crowed may also cause ingrown toenails.  

It is a good idea to inspect your feet on a regular basis, especially if you have diabetes or any other condition that causes poor blood flow.  Early detection is the key to effective treatment.  

As you can see, ingrown toenails are usually more of a nuisance than a serious medical condition.  

However, if left untreated or undetected for a long period of time, ingrown toenails can cause serious complications.

Keep these simple tips in mind and you will be well on your way to healthy, happy feet.

Until next month, drive safely!

Dr. Christopher H. Singh runs Trans Canada Chiropractic at the 230 Truck Stop in Woodstock, Ont. He can be reached at 519-421-2024.

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Sonia Straface is the associate editor of Truck News and Truck West magazines. She graduated from Ryerson University's journalism program in 2013 and enjoys writing about health and wellness and HR issues surrounding the transportation industry. Follow her on Twitter: @SoniaStraface.

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