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What Causes Ingrown Toenails

Ingrown Toenail Causes Related to Foot Care

Pressure from shoes and socks

The #1 most common cause of ingrown toenails. Footwear that's too tight can cause toenails to become ingrown. Socks or stockings that are too tight compress the toes together and contribute to increasing toenail curvature. Also, shoes that are too narrow, too flat, or too small can cause unnecessary pressure that encourages ingrown toenails.

Improper toenail trimming

The #2 most common cause of ingrown toenails. Many individuals make the mistake of cutting the corners of their toenail too short, thus allowing the skin to grow and fold over the toenail’s free edge. Another mistake is leaving edges that are too sharp, thus enabling them to dig into the skin. Also, trimming the toenail sides at an extreme angle, in an effort to relieve ingrown toenail pain, can permanently change the shape of the nail making the sides curve into the skin.

Un-ventilated shoes and hygiene

Softening of the toenail due to the continuous moist environment of un-ventilated shoes. Over time this will cause the nail to increase its curvature permanently. Aside from this, poor hygiene predisposes a person to fungal infections which can also lead to ingrown toenails.

Trauma

Injury or trauma to the toenail can cause the edges of the toenail to dig into the skin. Some injuries may also alter the direction of growth of the nail, making it more prone to becoming ingrown. Examples of trauma to the toe are having something heavy fall on the toe, stubbing the toe, accidentally kicking a heavy object, and repeated pressure from activities like running.

Sports

Normally the weight of our body is spread evenly across our entire foot. But the toes carry more of our weight when running, jumping and changing direction. Higher pressure placed on the toes can cause ingrown toenails. This is amplified when the shoes required by athletes are tight fitting.

Children tearing their toenails

Children's toenails are very thin. They will frequently tear or peel their toenails off instead of trimming them with a nail clipper. Essentially the same as trimming the nail too short, this results in sharp edges that grow into the surrounding skin. Parents should prevent their children from doing this. Teach them the dangers in having their nail the wrong shape or too short.

Ingrown Toenail Causes Related to a Medical Condition

Excessive sweating (Primary Hyperhidrosis)

Primary Hyperhidrosis is excessive perspiration or sweating of the hands and feet. Also known as Diaphoresis. This contributes to the dampness within your shoe that encourages increasingly curved toenails.

Toenail fungus (Onychomycosis)

Fungal infections of the nail result in thickening and deformities, making the nail more prone to growing inward, becoming brittle, or exerting pressure on the lateral skin folds.

Bone spur (Subungual Exostosis)

Subungual Exostosis is a bone-like tumor that develops under the toenail or occasionally the fingernail. It's most commonly caused by an injury to the nail. Because it occurs under the nail, it forces the center of the nail to raise. The growth itself is not usually painful but the changes that occur to the nail are. The nail will change shape becoming more highly curved. This results in what is known as a pincer nail. The bone spur can often be seen protruding from under the free edge of the nail.

Diabetes

Diabetics are particularly at risk for many foot problems including ingrown toenails due to lower blood flow to the feet.

Other Ingrown Toenail Causes

Genetics

Certain individuals are predisposed to having ingrown toenails due to hereditary traits that dictate the shape and form of the toenails. Those with curved and thick toenails are more prone to getting ingrown nails, since the nail edges tend to curve into the flesh when they grow. This is also the case for those with wide toenails.

Age

As people age, the growth of their toenail naturally slows. The nails tend to become more curved, thick and difficult to cut, predisposing the nails to brittleness and damage.

Toenail thickening

Toenails that are thicker tend to be more brittle, and thus the edges can split more easily, increasing the tendency for an ingrown toenail. Thicker toenails also tend to apply greater pressure on the skin beside the nail.

Poor dietary health

Though diet is not largely associated with the development of ingrown toenails, severe nutritional deficiencies can cause nail defects like increasingly curved toenails, thick toenails, toenail separation and weak nail structure.

Poor posture

Unhealthy posture that causes you to place more pressure on your toes, especially when standing. This constant pressure can then increase your chances for ingrown toenails.


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