Ingrown toenails are a painful condition that arises when the toenail starts to grow into the skin of the toe. This can happen when the nail is pressured excessively, and the wound that the ingrown causes can often make walking difficult. Ingrown toenails are usually urgent to treat because of how detrimental they can be to everyday life. Because of the pain they cause in the toe on the weight-bearing part of the foot, everyday tasks like getting out of bed can be unbearable. Aside from pain, there are other ways that ingrown toenails can negatively affect health. For one, the wounds created by ingrown toenails are venues for infection to form. This can occur both in the form of a bacterial infection of the wound or as a fungal infection of the toenail itself.

Ingrown toenails cause toenail fungus by damaging the tissue of the toe. Once they have done this, the toe acts as if a trauma has occurred, like when you stub your toe very badly for example. This trauma is a great way for toenail fungus to infect the nail. Because toenail fungus needs to get under the nail to the nail bed, trauma to the nail makes it easier for this initial infection to occur. Normally, when the nail and toe aren’t damaged, they create a barrier that protects the nail bed from infection. However, when this barrier is damaged, infections become easier to catch. 

Trauma from an ingrown toenail causes toenail fungus because it weakens the barrier of skin surrounding the toenail. The fungus can therefore move between the nail and the skin more easily and can find their new “home” under your toenail. Other ways that trauma to the nail can cause infection include stubbing your toe frequently or with a lot of force and dropping something directly onto the nail. Basically, anything that causes a direct injury to the nail itself will increase the risk of a toenail fungus forming.

Ingrown toenails often form because of footwear that doesn’t fit correctly. Unsupportive footwear that is too tight can be the cause of a multitude of foot pain conditions, like hammertoes, heel spurs, and more. Additionally, improperly fitting footwear is a big cause of ingrown toenail development. Because the toes are usually in contact with the edge of the shoe, when the shoe is too tight this can be the cause of repeated pressure on the edge of the toe. Shoes that don’t fit well can also cause trauma to the nail by themselves, by pressing up against the nail and the nail bed. This can functionally “loosen” the nail from the nail bed, making it easier for fungus to infect. Combined with the possibility of trauma from a subsequent ingrown toenail, ill-fitting shoes are a bad idea.

Ingrown toenails are especially an issue for athletes since they move around more in their shoes. Because of this increased level of activity, the pressure put on an athlete’s toes by their shoes will be increased as well. For example, an athlete who is required to jump frequently will find that their toes are jammed into the front of their shoes more frequently as well. This means that properly fitting shoes are essential for athletes, and finding the right pair of shoes should be taken very seriously. Additionally, athletes are already at increased risk of toenail fungus because of sporting activities. Toenail fungus loves dark, damp environments like sweaty socks and shoes. Athletes tend to have more sweat on their feet than others because of the exercise they do, so their nails are great environments for toenail fungus to spread to. Along with getting the right shoes for their feet, athletes need to be careful to change their socks and shoes immediately after doing physical activity. This will reduce the amount of time that their feet spend inside sweaty shoes, and reduce their risk of developing an ingrown toenail. 

Toenail fungus infections often start as aesthetic changes to the nail that are usually easily recognizable. The first sign of a nail fungus usually appears as a small white, yellow, brown, or black spot or stripe on the surface of the nail. While ingrown toenails are likely to cause fungal infections of the nail bed, they can also cause other infections as well. Particularly, infection of the wound of the ingrown toenail can lead to the formation of pus and redness around the toe.

If you have a toenail fungus infection, whether it was caused by an ingrown toenail or not, you should be seen by a licensed podiatrist for an FDA-approved treatment. The best treatment option is the PinPointe laser, which typically requires only one treatment to eliminate the fungus and has no downtime. To learn more about this treatment or schedule a free consultation with a licensed podiatrist, give us a call at 1-(800) 672-0625 or visit our website for more information.