What Is an Ingrown Toenail?
When a toenail is ingrown, it is curved and grows into the skin, usually at the nail borders (the sides of the nail). This digging in of the nail irritates the skin, often creating pain, redness, swelling and warmth in the toe.
If an ingrown nail causes a break in the skin, bacteria may enter and cause an infection in the area, which is often marked by drainage and a foul odor.
What Causes an Ingrown Toenail?
Ingrown toenails can develop for various reasons. In many people, the tendency for ingrown toenails is inherited.In other cases, an ingrown toenail is the result of trauma, such as stubbing your toe, having an object fall on your toe or engaging in activities that involve repeated pressure on the toes, such as kicking or running.
The most common cause of ingrown toenails improper trimming. Cutting your nails too short encourages the skin next to the nail to fold over the nail. Another cause of ingrown toenails is wearing shoes that are tight or short.
Sometimes initial treatment for ingrown toenails can be safely performed at home. However, home treatment is strongly discouraged if an infection is suspected or for those who have medical conditions that put feet at high risk, such as diabetes, nerve damage in the foot or poor circulation.
If you do not have an infection or any of the above medical conditions, you can soak your foot in room-temperature water (adding Epsom salt may be recommended by your doctor) and gently massage the side of the nail fold to help reduce the inflammation.
Avoid attempting “bathroom surgery.” Repeated cutting of the nail can cause the condition to worsen over time. If your symptoms fail to improve, it is time to see a foot and ankle surgeon.
After examining the toe, the doctor will select the treatment best suited for you.
Many cases of ingrown toenails may be prevented by: