An ingrown nail is a curved nail that grows into the skin, usually at the nail borders. It occurs when the corners or the edges of the nail grows into the skin.
This “digging in” of the nail irritates the skin, often creating pain, redness, swelling, warmth and soft tissue infection. Even if the toe isn’t painful, red, swollen, or warm, an ingrown nail that curves downward into the skin can progress to an infection.
To ensure that it does not turn into an infection, the ingrown nail must be treated immediately. While mild cases can be treated easily, serious cases will need surgical intervention.
What Are the Causes of Ingrown Toenails?
Causes of ingrown toenails include:
- Heredity or genetic predisposition.
- Trauma like dropping something on the toe or kicking something repeatedly.
- Improper trimming. The most common cause of ingrown toenails is cutting your nails too short. This encourages the skin next to the nail to fold over the nail.
- Improperly sized footwear. Footwear places a lot of pressure on your toes, especially the big toe. Shoes, socks, or stockings that are too tight, flat, or narrow for your feet can cause harm.
- Nail Conditions. Ingrown toenails can be caused by nail problems, such as fungal infections or losing a nail due to trauma.
- Poor posture
- Improper hygiene
There is no age or gender that is especially prone to this problem. Both men and women fall victim to the ingrown nail, as do teenagers and the elderly. It is more common in people who have sweaty feet.
What Are the Symptoms of an Ingrown Nail?
An ingrown nail can cause a lot of pain and discomfort, and it worsens in as it becomes infected. The early-stage symptoms include:
- Tenderness, swelling, or hard skin surrounding the nail
- Pain when pressure is applied
- A buildup of fluid around the toe
If the toe is not treated in this stage, it worsens and gets infected. An infected toe is red and swollen and may be oozing pus and blood, with an overgrowth of skin around the nail.
There are several home remedies that claim to treat ingrown nails. But home treatment is strongly discouraged if an infection is suspected, or for those who have medical conditions that put feet at high risk, such as diabetes, nerve damage in the foot, or poor circulation. Avoid attempting “bathroom surgery.” Repeated cutting of the nail can cause the condition to worsen over time.
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. Some nails may become ingrown again, requiring removal of the nail root.
There are a few different types of surgical procedures to treat an ingrown nail, with partial nail removal being one of them. In this procedure, your doctor will clean the infected area with an antiseptic and numb it to ease the pain during the procedure.
The sides of the nail are cut, keeping the edges straight and intact. The piece of the nail that is digging into the skin is removed. Your doctor will then place a piece of cotton under the remaining portion of the nail to keep it from getting infected. Phenol may also be used to keep the nail from growing back into the skin.
Another procedure is matrixectomy, in which your doctor will inject local pain medication to fully numb the region, and the entire nail will be removed.
Following the nail procedure, a light bandage will be applied. Most people experience very little pain after surgery and may resume normal activity the next day.
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Contact one of our offices to arrange a complimentary consultation regarding your ingrown nail. We will help restore proper toe and nail health.