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Why Is My Toe Nail Curved and What Should I Do About It?

Dr. Eman Elmi
December 16, 2022
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Your toenails serve an essential purpose— they protect your feet. Our feet are prone to injury so having a hard layer on our toes is critical. In addition, the toenail helps protect delicate soft tissues, nerves, blood vessels, and muscles. Keratin is a challenging and resilient substance that stands up well to wear and tear daily. 

The appearance of your toenails can tell of your lifestyle and can even indicate your health. Unfortunately, because our feet are put under a lot of stress throughout the day, our toenail health can sometimes suffer. Therefore, it’s essential to check the condition of your feet daily, especially if you have a history of toenail maladies, such as ingrown toenails.

Causes Of A Curved Toe Nail

Ingrown toenails, like toenail fungus, are one of the most common toenail problems in both adults and children. They can be extremely painful and affect our ability to do certain daily activities. An ingrown toenail is a curved toenail that grows into the flesh on the top corner of your toe. While any toe can be affected by an ingrown nail, it most commonly affects the big toe on either foot. 

Common causes of an ingrown or curved toenail include the following: 

  • Cutting your toenails too short causes the skin on the sides to cover the corners of the nail. This causes the nail to grow back into the skin. 
  • Cutting your toenails on a curve instead of straight across— when a nail is cut in a curved shape, it tends to grow inward instead of straight out. This causes uneven pressure on the sides of the nails, causing the nails to harden.
  • Genetics— having large or naturally curved toenails are at increased risk of getting ingrown toenails. 
  • Injuring your toenail— toenail trauma includes stubbing your toe, dropping something heavy onto your foot, wearing poorly-fitted shoes, and specific activities like running (long distances) or dancing (ballet, tap)

Injuring a toenail can result in a collection of pooled blood under the nail bed. This is referred to as a subungual hematoma. In addition, any cuts on the skin around the toenails from improper cutting, poorly performed pedicures, or poorly fitting shoes can increase the risk of infection. This can make the appearance of toenails worse and increase pain in the feet. 

How do you know if you have an ingrown toenail? Symptoms vary from person to person. Among the most common are redness and pain along the side of the nail, and swelling. This is a sign of infection. 

Treatment For Curved Toe Nails

Often, treatment for ingrown or curved toenails can be performed at home. If pain is mild and manageable and there are no immediate signs of infection, you can self-treat your ingrown toenail condition. Before you begin, soak your feet in a warm bath for at least 20 minutes. This will soften the skin nails, making them more pliable. Then, using a nail care tool that is clean and sanitized, you can carefully lift the ingrown nail out of the skin where it is embedded. Next, try using a bit of cotton or a piece of gauze to elevate the nail. This will alleviate pressure and encourage the healing of the skin.  Finish by applying an over-the-counter antibiotic ointment to the surrounding skin to keep infection at bay.

More severe conditions, or ones that are severely painful, may require professional treatment by a doctor. If lifting the toenail does not provide relief, partially removing the toenail may be a necessary course of treatment. After numbing the toe, a doctor can perform a partial removal of the toenail that has become ingrown. This procedure is called a partial nail avulsion. Recurrent ingrown toenails may require a more aggressive approach. Laser or chemical therapy treatments may be effective and provide long-term relief.  

If you are experiencing painful or recurrent ingrown toenails, schedule a consultation with Diablo Foot & Ankle. We are your experts in diagnosing and treating foot and ankle maladies. So give us a call today at (925) 464-1982.

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