What is an Ingrown Toenail?

An ingrown toenail occurs when the edge of the toenail grows into the surrounding skin, causing pain, discomfort, and potential infection. The most common location for an ingrown toenail is on the big toe, although it can occur on any toe. Ingrown toenails can cause varying levels of pain, from mild discomfort to severe pain that affects daily activities.

Ingrown toenail
Ingrown nail

Pain from an ingrown toenail is often caused by pressure on the surrounding skin and tissue, as well as inflammation and swelling. The area around the nail may become red, swollen, and tender to the touch. In severe cases, the nail may puncture the skin, leading to bleeding and increased risk of infection.

In addition to pain, an ingrown toenail can also cause infection. When the skin around the nail is broken, bacteria can enter and cause an infection. Signs of infection include increased pain, redness, swelling, pus, and fever. In severe cases, the infection can spread to other parts of the body, potentially causing serious complications.

What Causes Ingrown Toenails?

There are several factors that can increase the risk of developing an ingrown toenail. These include:

  1. Improper nail trimming: Cutting the toenail too short or rounding the corners can cause the nail to grow into the surrounding skin.
  2. Tight-fitting shoes: Shoes that are too tight can put pressure on the toes and cause the nail to grow into the skin.
  3. Injury: Trauma to the toenail, such as stubbing it or dropping something heavy on it, can cause an ingrown toenail.
  4. Genetics: Some people may be more prone to developing ingrown toenails due to their nail shape or other genetic factors.

Ingrowns can cause discomfort and may become infected if left untreated. When an ingrown toenail is left untreated and becomes infected, pus can develop and it can become very red. If this the nail does become infected or pain does not go away after attending to the nail, contact the doctor immediately. This is especially true for diabetics who can risk foot infection complications and amputations. 

How Are Ingrown Toenails Treated?

To prevent complications and ease symptoms, the toenail must be attended to. If the ingrown nail is especially severe or an infection develops, the doctor may have to remove part of the nail. If ingrown nails are an ongoing issue, removal of the nail root on the ingrown side can be necessary. This is accomplished through ingrown toenail surgery. The doctor will drain the infection from the end of the toe during the procedure and if necessary remove the extra tissue which has grown over the end of the toenail.

Treatment for an ingrown toenail depends on the severity of the condition. In mild cases, soaking the foot in warm water several times a day and gently lifting the nail out of the surrounding skin may be enough to relieve pain and promote healing. Over-the-counter pain relievers like ibuprofen can also help reduce pain and inflammation.

For more severe cases, a podiatrist may need to perform a procedure to remove the ingrown part of the nail. This may involve lifting the nail and placing a small piece of cotton or other material under it to prevent it from growing back into the skin. In more severe cases, the entire nail may need to be removed. This procedure is usually done under local anesthesia and is generally well-tolerated.

In cases where the ingrown toenail has become infected, antibiotics may be necessary to treat the infection. The podiatrist may also need to remove any pus or other material that has accumulated around the nail.

To prevent ingrown toenails from developing, it is important to take proper care of the feet and toenails. This includes wearing shoes that fit properly and provide adequate support, trimming the toenails straight across and avoiding cutting them too short, and keeping the feet clean and dry. People with diabetes or other medical conditions that affect circulation or immune function should be especially careful to prevent ingrown toenails and promptly seek treatment if one develops.

In summary, ingrown toenails can cause significant pain and discomfort, and can also lead to infection if left untreated. Proper care and treatment, including gentle soaking and nail trimming, and seeking professional help if necessary, can help prevent complications and promote healing.

Patients who have diabetes, vascular problems, and numbness in their toes will have to take special care of ingrown toenails because they can lead to more serious complications.

Call us at 727-842-9504 to make an appointment. Dr. Zafar will sit down with you and discuss options to proceed with.

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