How Short Should I Cut My Nails?

Simple question and truthfully no one answer fits all. Why? You may well ask.

Well for some individuals their nails are vital for picking up small objects. For others, any length may be a possible source of hiding dirt and pathogens that may be unacceptable in their field. The rest of us fall somewhere in between.

In our clinic, we often trim nails for patients who are either physically unable to trim their own or have been advised not to self-treat for medical reasons. In those cases, we typically will trim the nails as short as comfortably possible, to minimize the frequency of visits. Cutting the nails too short can be acutely uncomfortable. Applying pressure from walking and sudden stops can then result in separation of the membrane attaching the free edge of the nail to the nail bed (Hyponychium).

Damage to the Hyponychium can result in bacterial and fungal infections which spread quickly along the nail bed. Repetitive or habitual over-trimming of the nail can result in the thickening of the nail plate, permanent detachment of the nail plate, increased curvature and subsequent ingrowth.

So how should nails be trimmed?

Firstly pick a tool you are comfortable with. Profession nail nippers on the left below offer more control, comfort and power when dealing with thicker nails. They are now easily purchased online very cheaply, they may not be the quality of stainless steel we use but you wont be autoclaving them several times a day. The Clipper style on the right tends to be more readily available in retail stores and online, however can be associated more with nipping soft tissue and less precise trimming. 

Whichever you choose, take your time, find a comfortable, stable position to aid accuracy and careful placement of the cutting blade.

Nails should be trimmed leaving a small margin of the white free end of the nail still visible. There are no straight lines in the human body. 

Follow the contour of the nail this will avoid leaving sharp corners. Where possible after cutting us an emery board or file to smooth edges and round the corners.

In an ideal world we should all have our own personal hygiene tools. Realistically that’s not always practical, what is important is to have some alcohol on hand to disinfect the cutting devices before and after each use. For younger and elderly family members the process is sometimes difficult and no better opportunity to demonstrate our love and caring than to help with a process as simple as this.

For those occasions when you’re not comfortable and need a little help we’re here at Mississauga Podiatry and Brantford podiatry associates. Just give us a call.

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