Is there anything I can do as a nail tech to prevent infected ingrown toenails?
Dr. Roth: Ingrown toenails are due to a genetic predisposition of the shape of the toenail. Often, ingrown toenails run in families, so it would be difficult for you to control this part of the problem. However, there are some things that you can do in terms of prevention. Ask your client if she has had her feet measured lately. Approximately 20%-30% of the patients coming into my office complaining of ingrown toenails are wearing shoes that are too small for their feet. Simply getting into the proper size resolves many of these problems.
Next, proper cutting of the nail is important. The old debate is about cutting the nail across versus rounding the edge. In general, nails should be cut straight across. However, under a nail technician's care, it is OK to round off the corners.
Finally, if someone starts to develop symptoms, I recommend they do two things: 1) soak their feet in soapy, warm water or in Epsom salts daily; and 2) apply petroleum jelly to the corner of the nail and slip a small amount of cotton underneath the corner to lift it up slightly.
Dr. Rich: Ingrown toenails can become infected when the nail plate grows into the flesh of the toe and acts like a foreign body. This is a portal of infection for bacteria. Prevention is the best measure: Don't cut the nail down into the corner; and tell your clients to avoid shoes with pointed toes. If an infection is suspected, the client should visit her physician for cultures and antibiotics when necessary. Soaks can help until medical treatment is available. Sometimes a surgical approach is necessary to correct the problem.