Got Ingrown Toenails? Symptoms, Causes, Prevention & Treatment

Ingrown toenails occur when the edge of a nail grows into the skin. The medical term for this affliction is onychocryptosis. The condition may cause pain or discomfort, and if left untreated, it may lead to infection. If home remedies do not help, or if pain, swelling and redness occur, it's best to see a podiatrist for proper treatment.

There are several possible causes for ingrown toenails, such as wearing shoes that do not fit properly or trimming toenails incorrectly. Fortunately, there are simple ways to prevent this condition, and methods of treatment your foot doctor may initiate to help you heal. If you suspect you may have an ingrown toenail, here is what you need to know:

Recognize the Symptoms of Ingrown Toenails

In many cases, it is easy to diagnose an ingrown toenail at home. While ingrown toenails most commonly occur in the big toe, it may affect any of the toes. If you suspect you have an ingrown toenail, here's what to look for:

  • Pain or discomfort along the edge of the toenail: There may be redness, swelling and tenderness.
  • Infection: Along with the swelling and redness, you may notice discharge of pus, which may be tinged with blood.
  • Frayed skin along the edge of the nail.

Learn the Causes

Ingrown toenails may occur for several reasons. Most often it happens when an individual trims his or her toenails too short or unevenly. In some cases, people develop ingrown toenails when they wear shoes (and socks) that fit too tightly, crowding the toes and nails. Athletes are often prone to this condition, as are individuals with an abnormal gait. Other causes may be a fungal infection of the toenail, or obesity.

You may also develop this condition if you injure your toe and nail. For instance, if you bang your toe against a door or table, or if you drop a heavy object on your toe, the affected toenail may be forced into the in the skin and continue to grow inwards.

Know How to Prevent Ingrown Toenails

While ingrown toenails may not always be preventable (such as the case of heredity), there are simple measures to take that may reduce your chances of developing this painful condition. For one thing, always trim your nails straight across and not angled. Also, it's important to wear properly fitting shoes and socks that do not crowd your toes. Lastly, examine your feet periodically for abnormalities or changes around the toenail. This is especially important if you have diabetes, as you may be prone to foot problems or infections.

Treat the Condition Promptly

If you have developed ingrown toenails despite taking precautionary measures, you need to treat the problem at once. Left untreated, an ingrown nail may lead to infection. In the early stage or in mild cases that do not cause pain or infection, you may try a few home remedies, such as soaking your foot in warm water to reduce inflammation. You might also apply a dab of antibiotic cream around the affected area to reduce the chance of infection. However, if simple home remedies do not seem to help, or if you develop pain while standing or walking, swelling or discharge, you need to see a foot specialist. You should also see a podiatrist if you experience recurrent ingrown toenails.

Your podiatrist will examine the affected area and recommend a course of treatment to expedite healing. If an infection is present, your podiatrist may prescribe an oral antibiotic in addition to a topical cream or ointment. In more severe cases, surgical removal of the toenail border or corner may be necessary.

The podiatrist will typically bandage the area, which may be removed the following day. As part of the recovery process and to facilitate healing, you may be told to soak your foot in Epsom salts or use an antimicrobial cream. Wearing open-toe shoes may help you feel more comfortable as you heal.  

To learn more and get the proper attention, contact sources like Camden County Foot & Ankle Associates.