What is an ingrown toenail, and what causes toenails to become ingrown?
A toenail becomes ingrown when the side of the nail cuts into the skin next to the nail as it grows. Usually there is no apparent reason as to why it occurs.
Tight-fitting shoes may be a cause in some cases. It is also more common in people who cut their toenails very short and round. Other possible causes are injury to the nail, a fungal infection of the nail, or possibly, medication such as isotretinoin.
The correct way of cutting nails is straight across. This helps the nail grow normally and may prevent ingrown toenails from developing.
An ingrown toenail is a common disorder that most often affects the outer edge of the big toe. However, the nail on any toe (on one or both sides of the toe) can become ingrown. The most common signs and symptoms are pain, redness and swelling of the skin adjacent to the corner of a toenail.
The following symptoms may be present with ingrown toenails:
Redness and swelling
Prominent skin tissue
Stages to be aware of:
Early in the course of an ingrown toenail, the end of the toe becomes reddened and painful, with mild swelling. There is no pus or drainage. It may feel warm to the touch, but you may not have a fever.
If an infection develops, the swelling will become worse, and there may be white or yellow colored drainage from the area. A lighter colored area of the skin may be surrounded by red skin. You may also develop a fever.
Home care may help to correct the problem, if started as soon as you notice discomfort. The foot needs to be kept clean and dry. A small bit of cotton or waxed dental floss can be wedged under the corner of the toenail, forcing it away from the swollen skin until it can heal.
Be sure there is adequate exposure to air, and room for your foot to “breathe” so that the treated area can stay clean and dry. Adding a drop of rubbing alcohol to the cotton can help prevent bacteria from growing. You will also want to avoid wearing any shoe that puts pressure on the area during the healing process.
In the event that an ingrown toenail appears to be infected, seek medical advice.
Even if the ingrown toenail is only inflamed, without infection, seek medical advice if the following conditions also occur:
If there is no improvement after three days of home care.
If you are a diabetic, have poor circulation, HIV/AIDS, are on chemotherapy, or have another reason for poor healing or increased risk of infection.
If you have never been immunized for tetanus or have not had your booster tetanus immunization recently, then you need to discuss your tetanus immunization status with a doctor.
Ingrown toenails may be caused by the following:
Improperly trimmed nails (cutting too short, or at an angle)
Shoe pressure; crowding of toes
Repeated trauma to the feet from normal activities or stubbing your toe
After examining the toe, the podiatrist will select the treatment best suited for you. If an infection is present, an oral antibiotic may be prescribed.
Sometimes a minor surgical procedure, often performed in the office, will ease the pain and remove the offending nail. After applying a local anesthetic, the doctor removes part of the nail’s side border. Some nails may become ingrown again, requiring removal of the nail root.