An ingrown toenail (onychocryptosis) occurs when part of the nail penetrates the skin, which can often result in an infection.
The ingrown nail can also apply pressure in the nail fold area without penetrating the skin – this is not technically an ingrown toe nail, but can also be painful (a corn/callus is also common down the side of the nail and is a reaction to this pressure, rather than the nail actually penetrating the skin).
Symptoms of in ingrown toenail
Pain is the main symptom of an ingrown toe nail – usually just starting as some minor discomfort. This may be just the pressure from the side of the nail or it may be because the nail has actually penetrated the skin down the side of the nail. The toe is not necessarily infected, but this can develop after the nail penetrate the skin to become ingrown. The infection can spread, making the toe red and inflamed. A collection of pus may also develop.
Causes an ingrown nail
Poor cutting of the nail is most commonly blamed as being the cause of an ingrown toe nail, but this is not necessarily the case. The following factors are involved in the cause of ingrown toenails:
- The primary risk factor is the shape of the nail – a nail that is more curved from side to side rather than being flat is more likely to become an ingrown nail. • poor cutting of these types of nails can leave a sharp corner (or if worse, a small spike) that will initially cause symptoms by putting pressure on the skin and then later penetrate the skin. Trimming too far down the sides is a common cause of an ingrown toe nail.
- Footwear that is tighter is more likely to increase pressure between the skin in the nail fold and nail, increasing the risk on an ingrown nail.
- Previous trauma to the nail may alter the shape of the nail, making it more prone to becoming an ingrown nail
- Pressure from the toe next to the nail that has ingrown can sometime be a factor
- A ‘chubby’ or fleshy toe is more likely to have a nail grow into it. Those whose feet swell are a lot are more prone to having this happen.
Treatments for Ingrown Toenails
- Antibiotics are often used to treat the infected ingrown toenail, but don’t forget that the cause of the infected (the ingrown nail) is still there, so there is not a lot of point in treating the infection while the cause remains. Sometimes antibiotics are used to help the infection clear after the nail has been removed.
- A skilled Podiatrist can easily remove the corner or spike that has penetrated the skin, often with relatively little discomfort. If the ingrown nail is too painful, a local anaesthetic may be needed to do this. Don’t forget that unless the offending piece of nail that is causing the ingrown toe nail is removed, the infection is likely to persist.
- Occasionally, after the above treatment if the pain persist – this may be due to there being another spike of nail deeper down causing the ingrown toenail.
Ingrown toe nails have a great tendency to happen again. Regular treatment by a Podiatrist can often be needed, as a conservative approach to prevent the nail becoming a problem again.