Ingrown nails, the most common nail impairment, are nails whose corners or sides dig painfully into the soft tissue of nail grooves, often leading to irritation, redness, and swelling. Usually, toenails grow straight out. Sometimes, however, one or both corners or sides curve and grow into the flesh. The big toe is usually the victim of this condition but other toes can also become affected.
Although they can start out as a small nuisance, ingrown toenails can become a real problem if left untreated. Caused by a segment of the toenail that embeds in the skin around the nail, an ingrown toenail is characterized by pain, swelling, redness and a feeling of warmth in the affected toe. If the nail digs into the flesh around the nail and causes the skin to break, bacteria can enter, resulting in an infection. The infection can increase the level of pain in the toe and create additional problems.
While some people are prone to ingrown toenails and others are caused by improper nail trimming techniques, ingrown toenails can also be caused by trauma from repeated impact or stubbing the toe. Treatment for minor ingrown toenails can often be done in the home if you are in good health and if no infection is present. Soaking the foot to soften the skin and massaging the affected area can loosen the troublesome part of the nail.
Ingrown toenails may be caused by:
- Improperly trimmed nails (Trim them straight across, not longer than the tip of the toes. Do not round off corners. Use toenail clippers.)
- Shoe pressure; crowding of toes
- Repeated trauma to the feet from normal activities
If you suspect an infection due to an ingrown toenail, immerse the foot in a warm salt water soak, or a basin of soapy water, then apply an antiseptic and bandage the area.
People with diabetes, peripheral vascular disease, or other circulatory disorders must avoid any form of self treatment and seek podiatric medical care as soon as possible.
Other “do-it-yourself” treatments, including any attempt to remove any part of an infected nail or the use of over-the-counter medications, should be avoided. Nail problems should be evaluated and treated by your podiatrist, who can diagnose the ailment, and then prescribe medication or another appropriate treatment.
Your doctor at the Foot and Ankle Center of Cape Coral will resect the ingrown portion of the nail and may prescribe a topical or oral medication to treat the infection. If ingrown nails are a chronic problem, we can perform a procedure to permanently prevent ingrown nails. The corner of the nail that ingrows, along with the matrix or root of that piece of nail, are removed by use of a chemical.