Preventing ingrown toenails

An ingrown toenail is one of the most common sources of foot pain. Although it's usually just a nuisance, it can be a serious problem for anyone with diabetes or circulatory difficulties.

An ingrown toenail develops when the side of the nail digs into the skin. This can lead to pain, irritation, swelling, and redness. The big toe is most often affected, although no toe is immune. The problem usually develops because the nails have not been trimmed properly. Overly tight shoes may also be a factor. Some people have an inherited tendency to develop the problem.

The easiest way to prevent an ingrown toenail is to cut your nails straight across, rather than rounding off the corners (as you would with your fingernails). Use a toenail clipper (which is wider and larger than a fingernail clipper) or, if you use scissors, cut the nail in several short movements. Wear shoes that provide enough room at the toes, and wear stockings or socks that allow your toes to move freely. Lastly, it helps to clean under your nails regularly.

For more advice on keeping your feet pain-free, buy Healthy Feet, a Special Health Report from Harvard Medical School.

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