When a toenail is ingrown, the nail is curved downward and grows into the skin, usually at the nail borders (the sides of the nail). This “digging in” of the nail irritates the skin, often creating pain, redness, swelling, and warmth in the toe. If an ingrown nail causes a break in the skin, bacteria may enter and cause an infection in the area, which is often marked by drainage and a foul odor. However, even if the toe isn’t painful, red, swollen, or warm, a nail that curves downward into the skin can progress to an infection. If you have an ingrown toenail, it’s important to understand two myths about how to treat it.
Myth #1: Cutting a notch (a “V”) in the nail will reduce the tendency for the nail to curve downward
Cutting a “V” does not affect the growth of the toenail. New nail growth will continue to curve downward.
Myth #2: Repeated trimming of the nail borders is a good way to treat ingrown toenails
Many believe that repeated trimming is the best way to treat ingrown toenails, and cotton placed under the nail will relieve the pain. Additionally, some people believe they can buy effective ingrown toenail treatments at the drug store.
The truth is, repeated nail trimming fails to correct future nail growth and can make the condition worse. Cotton placed under the nail can be harmful. It can easily harbor bacteria and encourage infection. Over-the-counter topical medications may mask the pain, but they fail to address the underlying problem.