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Ingrown Toenail

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An ingrown toenail is not just a discomforting condition, but can also lead to inflammation and infection. Let’s learn more about ingrown toenails and its management from the following paragraphs.

What is Ingrown Toenail?

Ingrown toenail happens when the toenail gets curved and starts digging into the skin near the nail border. This leads to pain, irritation, discomfort, swelling as well as reddening around the toe.

As the nail grows, it may break into the skin. This gives the bacteria a chance to invade the open skin and lead to an infection. The infection causes inflammation, pus formation as well as foul odor.

An ingrown toenail is called as onychocryptosis or unguis incarnatus. It is a common nail disease often seen in shoe-wearing people.

What Are the Symptoms?

Symptoms of ingrown toenail include:

  • Pain and tenderness around one or both sides of the nail
  • Redness
  • Swelling and inflammation
  • Infection
  • Pus-formation
  • Bleeding

What Leads to Ingrown Toenail?

Ingrown toenails can occur due to:

  • Genetics: Some people are genetically prone to have ingrown toenails. This condition is usually inherited.
  • Trauma to the toe like repeated pressure on the toes due to running or kicking.
  • Wearing shoes that have a narrow front side leading to crowding of the toenails.
  • Cutting toenails in a curved manner
  • Unnatural shape of the toenail
  • Poor foot hygiene
  • Nail picking

Complications Due to Ingrown Toenails

An ingrown toenail can become infected due to its digging into the skin. When this infection is left untreated, it could spread to the underlying bone. Those with diabetes should be extra careful as it could lead to foot ulcer and gangrene.

Diagnosis of Ingrown Toenails

The doctor will listen to your symptoms and conduct a physical examination of the toe to determine whether it is a case of ingrown toenail. Diabetics may be asked to carry out a blood sugar test.

Prevention of Ingrown Toenail

It is very important to cut nails properly. One should cut nails straight across and not too low around the side. This will help in preventing ingrown toenails. The best time to cut toenails is after a bath or shower. The nails are soft and easy to cut.

Keep your feet and toenails clean. Good hygiene will help in prevention of ingrown toenails and their infection in the long run. Do not wear too narrow or too small shoes. This will aggravate the problem of toenails further.

Treatment of Ingrown Toenail

Ingrown toenails usually do not require any medications. Medications are given only in case of infection. Usually, warm water, salt soaks, antibacterial ointment, etc. are advised to treat minor or moderate cases of ingrown toenails.

In severe cases, surgery is required to remove the toenail completely. If the ingrown toenail recurs after the surgery, one may have to undergo another surgery to destroy the side nail bed under anesthesia.

This is all about ingrown toenail. If you find the ingrown toenail causing you discomfort or problems, visit a podiatrist for help. It is quite easy to treat an ingrown toenail during its initial stages of discomfort.

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Written by: Saptakee sengupta
Date last updated: April 06, 2015