Why Do I Get Ingrown Toenails?

For most people, an ingrown toenail is a rarity and can be quickly remedied by not wearing a particular pair of shoes again. However, some people find that ingrown toenails are a painful way of life, and they desperately wonder how they can stop the discomfort. Understanding how ingrown toenails happen can be the key to their prevention.

At Foot Care Specialists, PC, located in Quincy and Bedham, Massachusetts, Dr. Marshall L. Lukoff treats ingrown toenails using an individualized treatment plan based on your toe health and severity of the problem. He can recommend CO2 laser treatment or other therapies to help cure ingrown toenails, as well as educate you on preventive techniques.

The anatomy of the toenail

Hair, nails, feathers, horns, claws, hooves, and the outermost layer of your own skin are all made of a structural protein called keratin. Your fingers and toes have an internal section called the matrix, which is the site of a keratin cell’s multiplication. You can see part of the matrix at the bottom of your nail in the form of a white half moon shape.

As the cells multiply in the matrix and push outward, your nail grows continuously, adhering to the nail bed as it goes. Fingernails typically have a natural curvature that keeps the nail from being stressed. Toenails (especially nails on your big toe) can often be flatter, meaning there is stress across the flat top of the nail.

This stress on your toenail can cause it to start growing unevenly. It may fight against the adhesion to the nail bed and start pushing into the soft tissue on the sides of your toe. When this happens, you get pain, redness, and puffiness — an ingrown toenail. Certain people are more prone to ingrown toenails, especially pregnant women who are experiencing hormonal changes that can spur rapid keratin production.

Ingrown toenail prevention

The best way to prevent an ingrown toenail is regular foot and nail care to ensure the nail doesn’t get flattened and stressed. You can:

  • Wear shoes with plenty of room at the toe and socks that aren’t tight
  • Wear protective footwear if your job has risks of things falling on your feet
  • Soak your feet before cutting your toenails
  • Cut toenails straight across, with the center front of the nail no longer than the longest part of your toe
  • See your podiatrist regularly if you are prone to ingrown toenails

If your toes continually cause you discomfort, and these tips don’t prevent you from getting ingrown toenails, contact our office at 617-479-7921 or request a consultation online today.

Call Us Message Us