Ingrown toenails are a common condition, usually affecting the big toe, in which the nail of the toe grows downward into the soft tissue surrounding it.
The embedded nail causes redness and swelling and can be very uncomfortable. If left untreated it can cause infection and damage to the tissue, even to the bone.
Symptoms of an ingrown toe are:
Redness around the nail
Swelling and tenderness along the side of the nail
Pus or infection around the nail
Skin growing over the nail
Proper footwear and maintenance of the feet can prevent the nail from growing in the toe. Most ingrown nails can often be avoided by properly trimming the nails and by wearing shoes that are not too tight.
The most common causes of ingrown nails are:
Toenails that are trimmed in a curve or trimmed too short
External injury to the nail
Shoes that are too tight or too short
Genetic predisposition (naturally curved toenails)
Most ingrown toenails are not severe and can be treated at home to relieve discomfort. A health care professional may recommend:
Soaking the nail in warm water several times a day
Wearing sandals or open toed shoes until the problem subsides
Cutting nails straight across
Applying an antibiotic cream
In cases where the ingrown nail reoccurs, or conditions such as diabetes, poor circulation, nerve damage or infection complicate the healing process, a health care provider can help provide effective treatment solutions.
Thehealth care provider may numb the toe and remove part of the ingrown portion of the nail using scissors to cut away the edge of the nail where the skin is growing over. It can take several months for the nail to completely repair itself and grow back.
In more extreme situations, the doctor may recommend removing part of the nail bed and the nail in order to prevent a reinfection of the area.
This procedure can usually be performed in the office using a laser, chemical or a small surgical cut to remove the area from which the ingrown nail grows. The nail will not grow from the removed section of nail bed, thus reducing the chance that the ingrown nail will reoccur.
Speak to your health care professional if you have any questions.