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Fitness and Conditioning
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How to deal with ingrown toenails

It’s not sexy. It’s not glamorous. It’s not exciting. Unfortunately, it’s a topic that comes up time and time again with Irish dancers. Ingrown toenails. Between super tight soft shoes, and the repetitive banging of hard shoes, we are doing plenty of damage to our toenails, which can cause painful ingrown nails. We asked Dr Mariola Rivera, podiatric surgeon, how to care for nails to prevent this painful condition.

What causes ingrown toenails?

According to Dr Rivera, “Generally ingrown nails are caused by improper trimming of the nail, narrow shoes, repetitive pressure, and hereditary shape of the nail.” She goes on to add, “In dancers, constant trauma can cause damage to the nail bed, therefore abnormal growing of the nail. In dancers with long toenails who wear tight shoes or pointe shoes with narrow toe boxes, this can create excessive pressure on the toenails.” Tight shoes? Repetitive pressure? Sounds familiar.

Cutting your toenails

It isn’t as simple as just snipping your nails when they get long. Dr Rivera recommends using nail clippers to keep toenails the correct length. “Cut the nails straight across or in a square shape, and avoid cutting too far into the corners. Also, keep the medial and lateral nail folds clean without any residue, for example nail polish or nail debris. Avoid tearing the nail corners or any round shapes. The nail should be at the length of the tip of the toe.” In a nutshell, keep the edge of the toenail straight, and the corners square.

Dealing with the pain

If you do get ingrowns, there are some quick and easy ways to deal with the pain. “I recommend soaking the affected nail for 10 minutes with Epsom Salt to soften the nail. Do this for 5-7 days,” Dr Rivera explains. “Apply over the counter triple antibiotic to the affected nail twice a day, and keep the area protected and covered with a bandage.” Dr Rivera goes on to say, “If there are no signs of infection, insert a tiny piece of cotton tip under the nail to help the nail grow away from the skin.”

What if they get infected?

The best advice is to always see a professional. Dr Rivera advises, “Avoid picking at the nail, or using unsterile tools to try to remove any ingrowing pieces because it can cause an infection.” Additionally, “if the surrounding skin is red, warm, swollen, with or without discharge, you should see a podiatrist to aseptically remove the ingrowing nail via a partial nail avulsion or treatment with oral or topical antibiotics.”

Most importantly, look after your feet because you need them to dance! Do you get ingrown toenails? Leave a comment or join the conversation on our Facebook page.

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