Ingrown toenails
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Ingrown toenails

Ingrown toenails are a common condition that occurs when the side or corner of your nail raises into the flesh of your toe. This can cause pain, swelling, inflamed skin, irritation, and redness. Ingrown toenails are usually caused by wearing shoes that are too tight or by trimming your nails very short. 

If you are worried about the infected ingrown toenails or if it is causing pain or spreading irritation, you need to consult your healthcare provider. They will provide medications or suggest treatment options that will help in avoiding complications or relieving the discomfort of ingrown toenails. 

If you are having any medical condition that is affecting blood flow to the feet or if you have diabetes, you are highly susceptible to aggravation of ingrown toenails and should see your doctor for ingrown toenail removal as soon as possible.

Symptoms of ingrown toenails

It is a painful condition and mostly worsens in stages. Some of the beginning stage symptoms or manifestations include

  • Formation of fluid around the toe
  • Pain when the toe is pressed
  • Swelling/ hardening or tenderness of the skin close to the 

When the toe gets completely infected, you would experience symptoms such as:

  • Oozing pus
  • Bleeding
  • Pain
  • Overdevelopment of skin in and around the toe
  • Red and swollen skin

It is recommended to treat the ingrown toenail immediately after you experience the first symptom. This will help in avoiding the condition from worsening and also reduce the pain and irritation.

Causes of ingrown toenails

Various factors can contribute to the development of ingrown toenails.

Some of the common causes include:

  • Wearing stockings or socks that are too tight or ill-fitting or wearing shoes that are narrow or flat for your feet
  • Cutting your nails too short
  • Injury to the nails or toe like dropping a heavy object on the foot, kicking the ball constantly, or stubbing the toe
  • Having curved toenails
  • Poor blood circulation in the feet
  • Genetic predisposition
  • Improper foot hygiene like not keeping the foot dry or clean

Ingrown toenail infection may also happen when you are using the foot continuously for athletic activities. For example, when you continuously put pressure or kick an object on the feet, it can result in toenail damage and also increase the chances of ingrown toenails. Some of the activities that may damage toenails include: 

  • Soccer 
  • Kickboxing
  • Football
  • Ballet

What are the treatment options for ingrown toenails?

Wondering how to treat ingrown toenails? If the ingrown toenails are not affected, then you can follow certain home treatment methods to alleviate the pain and discomfort. Some of these home treatments for mild ingrown toenail include:

  • Apply topical steroid cream or antibiotic cream to avoid infection.
  • Use over-the-counter medication for alleviating pain.
  • Soak a cotton ball in olive oil and push the skin gently from the toenail edge.
  • Follow a routine of soaking feet for around 20 minutes in warm water, three or four times a day. Ensure to keep the feet dry in the remaining hours.

If these home treatments do not work out or if the infection remains the same, you need to consult your physician. They may suggest a surgical correction. If the infection is severe, ensure to stop these home treatments and consult a physician as early as possible. 

Surgical correction:

A surgical correction can be performed under local anesthesia in the office of your physician. First, the infected part of the toenail is removed along with the underlying bone. This is done to avoid any recurrence of the ingrown toenail. The toe is then packed with gauze and a surgical shoe is provided to the patient that needs to be worn for some days. Drainage tubes are placed in some cases if indicated.

If the ingrown nail is caused due to thickening, total nail removal may be suggested. In this case, the entire toenail is removed along with the underlying tissue. This procedure is known as matrixectomy.

One can return to normal activities within a few days. However, it is important to avoid activities that put a lot of stress on the feet for at least six weeks.

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