Diabetes increases the risk of neuropathy, swelling and infection, so taking care of your feet is crucial when you have diabetes. Additionally, because diabetes decreases circulation, it also increases your risk of ingrown toenails! While ingrown toenails may seem embarrassing or annoying rather than problematic, they can cause discomfort and other health issues. Below, the friendly experts at Dr. Fedorchak’s explain what ingrown toenails are and how to prevent them.

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What are ingrown toenails?

Having an ingrown toenail is incredibly painful! It can decrease your ability to walk, stay active and go about your day. Ingrown toenails occur when the corner of a nail grows into the surrounding skin, causing excessive pain in and around the toe.

How do you get ingrown toenails?

There are many causes of ingrown toenails. The most common cause is cutting your toenails too low or cutting them at curves, which forces low or curved nails to grow into the surrounding skin. Additional causes include toe injuries, shoes that are too tight, toenails that are naturally very curved and more. 

What are the risks of ingrown toenails?

Ingrown toenails are painful! Additionally, you might experience swelling, redness and even numbness in the toe. But beyond causing pain, ingrown toenails can also cause damage to the skin around your nail, which increases your risk of infection. If an infection in your toe becomes too severe, you may need surgery or even amputation to treat it. Though ingrown toenails usually don’t progress this far, the best thing you can do is prevent ingrown toenails. 

Here’s How to Prevent Ingrown Toenails

Cut your nails straight across.

The best way to prevent ingrown toenails is to cut them straight across, not into the curved shape of your toes. Additionally, avoid trimming them too low! Instead, keep your nails as long as the tip of your toe. They have already grown past the nailbed at this length and aren’t likely to grow inward. 

Never tear off the corner of your nails!

In addition to cutting your nails straight across, avoid tearing your nails off. When you tear your nail, especially at the corner, there’s a greater chance of the toenail going too low or curving downward. Then, when your toenail grows back, it’s more likely to grow into the surrounding skin.

Wear appropriately sized shoes.

Opt for comfortable shoes that give your toes enough room to wiggle. However, appropriately sized shoes shouldn’t be so loose that your toes slide into the front of the shoe with each step. If your feet slide forward, your toes will repeatedly hit the shoe, which can cause damage that leads to ingrown toenails.

Protect your feet and toes from injuries.

It can be challenging to avoid injuries, but try your best to limit and prepare for them. For example, skip out on risky activities or wear more protective shoes for hiking, bowling and other similar activities.

If you’re concerned, use a toenail brace.

You can find ingrown toenail braces in most pharmacies and drug stores. These small patches pull on your nail to encourage straight growth. 

What to Do if You Have Ingrown Toenails
Depending on the severity, ingrown toenails may resolve as your nail grows. However, if the ingrown toenail is severe or causing too much pain, your doctor might recommend removing the side of the nail. Contact your endocrinologist or podiatrist if your nail is ingrown or the surrounding skin is red, painful and swollen. They can tell you what treatment is best to relieve your pain!