What Is an Ingrown Toenail?
Ingrown toenails are a common condition in which the side or corner of a toenail grows into nearby skin. According to the National Library of Medicine, ingrown toenails affect an estimated 20 in 100 people who visit their family doctors for foot problems.
Ingrown toenails can cause pain, swelling, and discomfort. This foot condition can usually be effectively treated by a podiatrist, which is a doctor who specializes in podiatry and in treating problems that affect the foot and ankle.
An ingrown toenail occurs when the toenail—usually that on the big toe—grows into the soft flesh that surrounds the toenail instead of over the flesh. It can cause pain and swelling on the toe that makes it difficult to wear shoes and walk comfortably.
When not treated, an ingrown toenail may lead to an infection. The risk for complications from an ingrown toenail is higher among those with diabetes, given how this condition can damage nerves and blood vessels in the feet, causing delayed healing.
Many times, ingrown toenails can be prevented with proper foot care, such as by wearing properly fitting shoes and inspecting the feet daily.
What Causes an Ingrown Toenail?
An ingrown toenail can be caused by several factors. Common causes of ingrown toenails include:
- Wearing tight, poorly fitting shoes that crowd the toenails
- Cutting toenails unevenly or too short
- Injuring a toenail
- Getting a nail infection
- Having toenails that are curved
Anyone can get an ingrown toenail, though certain factors may increase the risk. Risk factors for ingrown toenails include:
- Having poor nail care habits, such as biting, peeling, or cutting the nails too short
- Being unable to properly care for the nails
- Participating in activities that could injure the toes, such as soccer and other sports
- Having a chronic condition, such as diabetes, that interferes with blood flow.
What Are Symptoms of an Ingrown Toenail?
Pain and discomfort on the affected toenail are the most common symptoms of this foot condition. Other symptoms of an ingrown toenail include:
- Pain and tenderness
- Inflammation near the affected toenail
- Infection on the affected toe
How Are Ingrown Toenails Diagnosed and Treated?
An ingrown toenail can be diagnosed with a physical examination of the foot and nail by a podiatrist. Treatment for an ingrown toenail usually involves trimming away the piece of nail that is growing into the flesh. In some instances, the podiatrist may numb the area beforehand with local anesthesia to reduce any related discomfort.
Another treatment for an ingrown toenail involves removing the root or matrix of the nail along the outer edges while leaving the rest of the nail intact. This can usually prevent recurring instances of an ingrown toenail.
Why Shouldn’t I Treat an Ingrown Toenail on My Own?
Treating an ingrown toenail at home increases the risk of infection. Many people lack the tools and experience to treat ingrown toenails on their own, or they may use unclean tools that are not sterilized.
People with diabetes should receive podiatric care regularly because the disease increases the risk of foot wounds, and delayed healing could lead to amputation.
Seeing a podiatrist for an ingrown toenail can lead to reduced pain, fewer or no future instances of ingrown toenails, and better overall foot health.
Contact The Foot Doc today at (480) 744-6234 to request an appointment to treat ingrown toenails or any other podiatric foot and ankle condition.