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Ingrown toenails


Published: May 14, 2013

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Ingrown toenails are one of the most common and most painful nail complaints seen by the podiatrist. Ingrown nails are often a splinter or spike of nail digging into the soft tissue on the side of the nail, often leading to redness, swelling and can be extremely painful. In more severe cases, it can become infected, leading to pus and bleeding. Usually, toenails grow straight out, however, sometimes one or both corners or sides of the nail curve and grow into the flesh. Any of the toenails can become ingrown, but the problem most often affects the big toe.

What causes ingrown toenails

• Most common cause is improperly trimmed nails.

• Heredity — the nail is just too large for the toe and has curled edges.

• Tight shoes causing pressure and crowding the toes.

• Repeated trauma to the feet from normal activities or from stubbing the toe or having the toe stepped on, may also cause an ingrown nail.

• The most common cause is tight shoe wear causing pressure and crowding the toes.

• Footwear and socks can push your toe flesh onto the nail so that it pierces the skin and, if you sweat excessively, or don’t rotate your footwear, this makes the skin moist and weak, so it can be pierced by the nail.

Who gets ingrown toenails

• Ingrown toenails are more common in teenagers especially those who are active in sports.

• Persons who pick their nails or cut them too low.

• Persons who wear socks or support hose that squeeze the toes or narrow mouth shoes with tight toe boxes.

Prevent ingrown toenails

Cut the nails straight across, don’t cut too low, no shorter than the edge of the toe or longer than the tip of the toes. Use a sharp toenail clipper to cut nails without tapering or rounding the corners. The corner of the nail should be visible above the skin. It’s better to cut the nails after a bath or shower when they are softer and easier to cut. Good hygiene can go a long way to preventing ingrown toenails. Avoid moist feet by rotating your footwear so they can dry out thoroughly. Choose cotton socks and leather shoes or other materials that are breathable and fit well. Protect the feet from trauma and wear shoes and hosiery (socks) with adequate room for the toes. Keep feet clean and dry at all times.

If left untreated, and they become infected, the infection can spread to the rest of the toe and foot. The quicker you treat them, the less painful the toe and the treatment.

Treating ingrown toenails

Treatment of an ingrown toenail depends on how bad it is. For the most basic ingrown toenail, the podiatrist will carefully remove the offending spike of nail causing the problem.

If the ingrown toenail progresses and becomes too painful to touch, the podiatrist may have to use a local anesthetic to numb the toe, before removing the offending portion of nail. The podiatrist will cut the ingrown portion of the nail and may prescribe a topical or oral medication to treat the infection. Very seldom are antibiotics needed to treat this condition as long as the ingrown portion of the nail is removed. If ingrown nails are a chronic problem, your podiatrist can perform a procedure to permanently fix the problem. The corner of the nail that in-grows, along with the matrix or root of that piece of nail, is removed and a chemical, a laser or other method is used to prevent re-growth. This procedure developed by podiatrists, is over 97 percent successful. After the procedure, the nail will be narrower but appears the same as before. You will have to return for post-op visits so the podiatrist can make sure the area heals correctly.

If you have an ingrown toenail you should see a podiatrist as soon as possible. While you are waiting to see the podiatrist, if you suspect an infection due to the ingrown toenail, immerse the foot in cool water and vinegar soak for a few minutes, or a basin of soapy water, then apply an antiseptic and a bandage to the area. Rest your foot as much as possible and wear shoes with plenty of room or with open toes.  Persons with diabetes, peripheral arterial disease or other circulation problems must never soak their feet or try to treat the ingrown nail themselves. They should see the podiatrist as soon as possible.


• For more information email us at foothealth242@gmail.com or visit us at www.apma.org, foothealth.org or feetforlife.org. To see a podiatrist, visit Bahamas Foot Centre, Rosetta Street or call 325-2996 or at Bahamas Surgical Associates, Albury Lane or call 394-5820 for an appointment today.


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