Under normal circumstances, when your toenails grow, they grow over the top of your skin. However, with an ingrown toenail, the toenail penetrates the skin and grows into it rather than over it. This most commonly occurs on the big toe, but it is possible that an ingrown toenail could develop on any of the other toes. The severity of an ingrown toenail varies from patient to patient; in some cases it won't be possible to see the side of the nail at all, while in others only a small corner section of the mail may pierce the skin. When this does happen, if not properly treated, it's possible that an infection may set in, with the entire area becoming swollen and red, which as you can imagine can be very painful.Ingrown Toenail Causes
Absolutely anyone can suffer from an ingrown toenail; it is not a condition that is largely confined to a single age group or gender. Wearing tight fitting footwear that "packs" the toes together tightly and allows them no room to move is a known risk factor, as is sustaining an injury to the nail that could change the angle at which it grows. Fungal infections and using certain kinds of medications, such as isotretinoin, can also increase your chances of suffering from an ingrown toenail.
- If you are suffering from an ingrown toenail, you will most likely notice a significant amount of swelling around the toe, hard skin and it may be sensitive to the touch in the early stages.
- Other symptoms that you might see include a build-up of fluid around the toe and it may become very red and "angry" looking.
If the toe gets infected, things can get a little more serious and you will likely see some, or all, of the following:
- Pus oozing out of the toe
- Skin growing over parts of the nail
- Extreme pain when pressure applied to the toe.
As soon as you see signs that you may have an ingrown toenail it's important to treat it before the condition worsens. This should ensure that you prevent it from getting infected, which is when more serious forms of treatment are usually required. Initially, the following treatments are often recommended:
- Bathing the entire foot in a bowl of warm water several times per day.
- Ensuring the foot is kept completely dry between these sessions.
- Making sure all footwear that is worn has adequate toe space; sandals are often a good option until your toe is back to full health again.
- Taking anti-inflammatory medication, such as ibuprofen, to provide pain relief.
It is important to constantly monitor the toenail's condition, and if it takes a turn for the worse, call a medical professional immediately.
When visiting a podiatrist, after inspecting the condition of your toe, they may do one or more of the following:
- Carefully cut away the section of the nail that has penetrated the surrounding skin.
- Advise you on the types of medications that can help improve an ingrown toenail.
- Recommend a surgical procedure to correct the positioning of the nail if necessary.
If you have a history of suffering from ingrown toenails or your case is particularly severe, your doctor may advise you that surgery is the best treatment option. However, while ingrown toenails are a relatively common occurrence, surgery is very rarely recommended. Contrary to many people's beliefs it's not a "preferred treatment method" for ingrown toenails and your doctor will most likely try to avoid it if possible.