Nail Fungus Treatment

Overview of Ingrown Toenail

Picture of In grown Nail

This article provides an overview on the symptoms and causes of ingrown toenails as well as the reasons why prevention and treatment are important to avoid an ingrown toenail infection.

All About the Toenail

The toenail forms under the skin at the edge of the nail nearest the body. As more toenail forms, it is pushed along the upper surface of the toe to the end of the toe. In humans, the toenail serves to protect the top of the toe from injury.

Sometimes, these toenails have a mind of their own and grow in a way that causes irritation to the skin. Physicians know this condition as onychocryptosis. For the layman, we know it as an ingrown toe nail. By either name, the result is the same:  the sides, or corners, of the nail curl down and dig into the skin, causing swelling, pain and redness.

What an Ingrown Toenail Looks Like

An ingrown toenail is a painful condition that starts off as hard, swollen and tender. If you let them go without treatment, an ingrown toenail infection turns the area red, sore, and pus-laden. Your skin may also start to grow over the ingrown toe nail.

Causes of an Ingrown Toenail

They tend to be more common in adults than in children and infants. While any of your toenails can become ingrown, it is usually your biggest and smallest toes. 

While many things can cause ingrown toenails, the primary reason is dependent on the shape of the toenail. If nails are peeled off at the edge or improperly trimmed down at the corners, the result is an ingrown toe nail. Another factor is shoes that do not fit well. When shoes are too tight press, the sides of the nail push in and curl into the skin. If you have diabetes or another condition that causes poor circulation in your feet, you are at greater risk of complications from an ingrown toenail.

Whatever the cause, it is important to focus on prevention because you do not want to have the agony of an ingrown toenail infection. 

Treatments that Avoid an Ingrown Toenail Infection

Often, you can take care of ingrown toenails on your own. If simple treatment is not successful and the pain is severe or spreads, your doctor or podiatrist can help you alleviate the discomfort. This could involve minor surgery to remove the sides of the nail, leaving a narrow and odd-looking nail.

 Complications of Ingrown Toenails

If left untreated, an ingrown toenail fungus infection can develop with the possibility of abscesses that would have to be surgically removed.  Left untreated or undetected, an ingrown toe nail can even infect the underlying bone, leading to a serious bone infection.

In rare cases, an ingrown toe nail can result in a foot ulcer, which could also require surgery. At their worst, these foot ulcers could even turn gangrenous, leading to amputation.

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