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What Are Ingrown Toenails?

An ingrown toenail is a painful toenail condition that develops when the borders of the toenail begin to dig into and penetrate the neighboring skin fold leading to pain, irritation, redness, swelling and often bacterial infection. The big toe is the most common location for this condition however other toes can also become affected.

Causes:

Ingrown toenails are often caused by the following:

  1. 1. Improper trimming – often times leaving behind an offending sharp border
  2. Heredity – the shape and appearance of the nail are a hereditary trait
  3. Shoe pressure – crowding or cramping of the toes within ill fitting shoe gear
  4. Repetitive trauma – from running, jogging or activities that require time
  5. Fungal involvement – leads to thickening and abnormal nail growth

Symptoms:

The following symptoms may be present with ingrown toenails:

1. Pain and Swelling
2. Redness and Drainage
3. Malodor and Infection
4. Soft Tissue Growth (“Proud Flesh” – Granuloma Formation)

Home Treatment:

If you suspect an infection due to an ingrown toenail begin by soaking the foot in a basin of lukewarm water with Epsom salts or liquid antibiotic hand soap then rinse with hydrogen peroxide then cover with antibiotic ointment and bandage.

Individuals with diabetes, circulation problems or are immune compromised should avoid any attempts at self-treatment and seek medical care from a podiatrist as soon as possible. If left untreated, problems like this can quickly lead to serious risk of rapid infectious spread and potential amputation of the toe, foot and/or leg.

“Bathroom surgery” is highly discouraged. Avoid any attempt at trimming away at the offending border because more often than not the problem becomes worse. Contact a podiatrist to have a thorough evaluation of the problem and to resolve the problem quickly.

Diagnosis and Treatment:

A podiatrist will be able to quickly diagnose and effectively treat a painful, infected ingrown toenail. Treatment may start with a prescription of a broad spectrum antibiotic to begin to resolve the soft tissue infection along with discussion of home care treatment recommendations.

Once the infection is reduced or resolved the offending nail border will then be carefully trimmed away and/or removed permanently through a minor in office surgical procedure. These recommendations will be discussed in detail upon your initial evaluation and the severity of the ingrown nail.

Prevention:

1. Trim toenails properly: try to trim them straight across for the most part.
2. Avoid digging into the corners and try to smooth off the rough edges with a nail file.
3. Avoid shoe gear with too high of a heel and shoe with a narrow toe box.
4. Make sure your athletic or running shoe gear has ample space in the toe box.

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