Ingrown Toenails

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An ingrown toenail is a painful condition that occurs when the corner or side of a toenail digs into the skin of the toe. The nail irritates the soft tissue of the toe, causing pain, redness, and inflammation.

Treatment of ingrown toenails can usually be performed at home. If ingrown toenails become extremely painful, a physician can remove the ingrown portion of the nail and prescribe antibiotics to address any infection.

Causes of ingrown toenails

Ingrown toenails occur when the nail begins to grow into the skin of the toe, usually the big toe. There are a variety of factors that can lead to the development of an ingrown toenail, including the following:

Footwear - Shoes that are too small or too tight cause toes to compress together; this can result in abnormal nail development. 

Fungal infections - Fungal nail infections can cause nails to become thicker and wider, making an ingrown nail likely to develop. 

Genetics - If a member of your family consistently develops ingrown toenails, you are likely to develop them as well. 

Injury - Any trauma or injury that damages the nail can lead to an ingrown toenail. 

Nail trimming - One of the most common causes of ingrown toenails is trimming nails too short or rounding nails (nails should be trimmed straight across).

Ingrown toenail symptoms

Ingrown toenails usually develop on the outer edge of the big toe; however, any toenail can become ingrown. Symptoms of an ingrown toenail include:

  • Drainage of a yellowish fluid.
  • Extra skin growth around the corner of the nail. 
  • Pain, redness, and swelling along one or both sides of the toenail.

Drainage of pus may indicate that an infection has developed. It is important to see a physician if the pain from the ingrown toenail becomes severe or if the infection seems to be growing.

Ingrown toenail treatment

When an ingrown toenail first develops, it can be treated at home. Soak your foot daily in warm water and massage the side of the nail to reduce inflammation. Avoid repeatedly trimming your toenail; this can actually cause ingrown toenails to worsen.

If pain persists or there are any signs of infection, see a doctor immediately. Your doctor will prescribe antibiotics and elevate and clean the ingrown portion of the nail. If excess tissue has grown around the toenail your doctor may choose to remove the tissue to help the toe heal faster.

When ingrown toenails become a recurring problem, it may be necessary to remove part of the toenail and underlying tissue to prevent the nail from growing back malformed.

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