Ingrown nails can be very painful, and they become infected easily without prompt treatment. They can occur at any age and are normally caused by bad toenail cutting or in some cases damage to the nail. Early treatment can usually be quite simple with minimum discomfort.
If the toe has become badly infected, then sometimes a small procedure under local anesthetic might be required to remove the ingrown nail.
What is an Ingrown Toenail?
An ingrown toenail occurs when the edges or corners of your nail grow into the skin on the sides of the nail. Your Big toe is most likely to get an ingrown toenail.
An ingrown toenail can cause complications that might require medical treatment. Your risk of complication is higher if you have diabetes or other conditions that cause poor circulation.
Causes of Ingrown Toenail
- Cutting toenails incorrectly (cut straight across, since angling the side of the nail can encourage the nail to grow into the skin)
- Irregular curved toenails, Poor posture and Genetic predisposition
- Footwear that places a lot of pressure on the big toes, such as socks and stocking that are too tight or shoes that are too tight, narrow, or flat for your feet.
- Toenail injury, including stubbing your toe, dropping something heavy on your foot, or kicking a heavy object.
- Older people may also be at higher risk because toenails thicken with age.
- Improper foot hygiene such as not keeping your feet clean.
- Dry ingrown toenails may be more common in people with sweaty feet, such as teenagers.
- Activities in which you repeatedly kick an object or put pressure on your feet for long periods of time can cause toenail damage and increase your risk of ingrown toenails. (Ballet, football, kickboxing, soccer).
Symptoms of Ingrown Toenail
An ingrown toenail can be painful, and it usually worsens in advanced stages.
Early-stage symptoms include:
- Swelling and tenderness of the skin surrounding the nail
- Feeling pain when pressure is placed on the toe
- Fluid buildup around the toe
If your toe became infected, symptoms may include:
- Red, swollen skin
- Oozing pus
- Overgrowth of skin around the toe
See your Podiatrist as soon as possible to avoid worsening symptoms.
Complications of Ingrown Toenail
If left untreated, an ingrown toenail can cause an infection (in the worst case it can cause infection of the bones too).
A toenail infection can also lead to a foot ulcer, or open sores, and a loss of blood flow to the infected area. Tissue decay and tissue death at the site of infection are possible.
If you have diabetes: a foot infection can be more serious! Even a small cut, scrape or ingrown toenail may quickly become infected due to the lack of blood flow and nerve sensitivity. See your doctor right away if you have diabetes and are concerned about an ingrown toenail infection.
Preventing Ingrown Toenails
- Trim your toenails straight across and make sure that the edges do not curve in.
- Avoid cutting toenails too short.
- Wear proper-fitting shoes, socks, and tights Wear steel toe boots if you work in hazardous conditions, such as construction sites.
- If your toenails are abnormality curved or thick, surgery may be necessary to prevent ingrown nails.
Ingrown Toenail in babies:
If your baby has an ingrown toenail, the podiatrist will advise you to do the following:
- Soak the feet two to three times daily in warm, soapy water. Then dry the feet and apply a thin coat of an over the counter antibiotic cream or ointment.
- Try putting a piece of sterile gauze under the nail to lift it over the skin edge and change this several times daily.
- If there are signs of infection with increased redness, swelling, or pus, your doctor needs to evaluate the toe.