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Ingrown toenails


Published: Oct 29, 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, producing pus and bleeding. Usually, toenails grow straight out. Sometimes, however, 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 more often affects the big toe.

Causes of ingrown toenails

• The most common cause is improperly trimmed nails.

• Heredity — the nail is just too large for the toe and have 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 squeezes the toes or narrow mouth shoes with tight toe boxes.

• Pregnant women or mothers who recently had their babies seem to be at higher risk for ingrown toenails.

What you can do to prevent ingrown toenails

Cut the nails straight across, don’t cut too low, no longer or shorter than the edge of the toe. 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 to wear shoes and socks with adequate room for the toes. Keep the feet clean and dry at all times. See the diagram below on how to properly cut/trim toenails.

Are ingrown toenails serious?

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.

How is an ingrown toenail treated?

Treatment depends on the severity of the ingrown toenail. 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 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 prevent ingrown nails from coming back. The corner of the nail that grows in, along with the matrix or root of that piece of nail, is removed and a chemical, a laser, or other methods are used to prevent regrowth. This procedure was developed by podiatrists and is shown to be over 97 percent successful. After the procedure, the nail will be narrower but this often goes unnoticed. You will have to return to the clinic so the podiatrist can make sure the toe 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 or if the toe is painful or having a lot of drainage (pus, blood), soak the toe in cool water and vinegar or a basin of soapy water, then apply an antiseptic and a bandage to the area. Other do-it-yourself treatments, including any attempt to remove any part of an infected nail or the use of over-the-counter medications, should be avoided.   Rest your foot as much as possible and wear shoes with plenty of room, or open toes. People with diabetes, and poor circulation do not try to treat the nail at home, see the podiatrist as soon as possible.


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

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