ingrown toenail

What Is an Ingrown Toenail?

In normal toenail growth, the nail grows straight out, and over the skin. With ingrown toenails, the sides or corners of the nail grow into the skin on the side(s) of the nail. This is a very common foot condition that occurs most commonly in the big toe, however it can develop in other toenails as well.

What Causes a Toenail to Dig Into Surrounding Skin?

There are several possible reasons why a toenail may become ingrown, including:

  • Genetics. Some ingrown toenails develop because of a genetic propensity towards the condition, or because of an inherited rounded shape or disproportionate size of the toenail.
  • Improper Grooming. Cutting the toenails too short can cause the skin on the sides of the nail to cover the corners of the nail, leading to the nail growing into the skin.
  • Tight Footwear. Wearing shoes that are tight in the toe box or too narrow puts pressure on the nail, forcing the nail into the surrounding skin.
  • Trauma to the Toenail. An injury to the toenail such as dropping something heavy on it, stubbing it, or repeatedly damaging it during sports or other activities can lead to an ingrown toenail.

People more likely to develop an ingrown toenail include children, people with diabetes, or those with poor circulation or nerve damage in the feet or legs.

Symptoms of an Ingrown Toenail

The symptoms of an ingrown toenail may include a feeling of warmth, along with swelling, redness, and discomfort concerning the affected nail. As the condition progresses, the pain will most likely increase. If the nail becomes infected, drainage may occur or an odor may develop.

How Does a Podiatrist Treat Ingrown Toenails?

If the ingrown nail is slightly ingrown, your podiatrist may remove a small section of the nail edge to allow the inflamed skin to calm down, allowing the nail to grow back out properly. Sometimes the nail growing into the skin at the tip of the toe can be lifted from the skin by lifting the nail and then using cotton to keep it in that raised position, which will allow the nail to grow above the skin edge. 
If the nail is already painful, red, or draining, your podiatrist may prescribe antibiotics and then in a few days, remove the ingrown section of the nail to the root under the skin, or even the entire nail in certain cases and apply a chemical to kill the root so the nail doesn’t grow back in most instances.
There are many alternatives, so evaluation is needed for an individual treatment plan.

How to Prevent Getting an Ingrown Toenail

Most ingrown toenails can be prevented by trimming the toenails properly, as recommended by your podiatrist. They should be cut straight across, never rounded, and not too short. Shoes should not be narrow or pointy. They should have ample room in the toe box, allowing the toes to move around freely. The edges of nails should never be torn or ripped.

If you have an ingrown toenail, make an appointment with our office to begin treatment as soon as possible.

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