What is an ingrown toenail?
An ingrown toenail occurs when the sides of the toenail grow into the surrounding skin. The condition can be very painful and can affect anybody, young or old. Cutting your toenails badly or wearing inappropriate footwear can both lead to ingrown toenails, as can poor foot hygiene or injury, so care should be taken with these issues. Another cause of ingrown toenails is that the nail can become soft and split, therefore allowing the splint to grow into the skin.
It is a common condition and can affect any of the toes, although it tends to develop on the big toe normally.
Ingrown toenails can start off painless at first, but if left untreated, they can become painful (particularly under pressure), with any of the following signs occurring on the toe:
- red, swollen and tender
- (in bad cases) severe infection.
How is it treated?
To prevent ingrown toenails, advice can be provided by a podiatrist to help you to care for your feet (see below for self-help treatment). Otherwise, a podiatrist will be able to examine your feet and offer the most suitable treatment for your needs. This could include removing the splints of the nail that are causing the problem or, if serious, part of the nail or the whole nail can be removed to solve the problem. This is often done in surgery.
What can you do to help?
To prevent ingrown toenails, always cut your nails straight across, but make sure you don’t cut them too short. It is advisable to cut them after a bath or shower when your nails are soft.
You should always wear appropriate, comfortable footwear too. Ensure that your shoes are not too tight and, if possible, avoid high heels or narrow-fitting shoes as this could make the condition worse and more painful.
Wash your feet regularly in warm soapy water and ensure you dry them thoroughly. If you get an ingrown toenail, soak your foot in warm water for relief.
Should you be suffering from an ingrown toenail that is causing you pain, you could take over-the-counter painkillers. Always read the information leaflet that comes with such medication and ask your doctor or pharmacist if you are unsure about anything (children under the age of 16 should not take aspirin).
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