When the corner or the side of a toenail grows into the flesh of a
toe or, conversely, when the flesh of the toe grows over either or both
sides of the toenail it results in localized redness and swelling which
are accompanied by pain and often an infection as well as a variety of
complications. This condition is called an Ingrown Toenail and it most
often affects the big toe although not exclusively. Women are more
prone to Ingrown Toenails than men because, for aesthetic reasons, women
have a tendency to round off the corners of their toenails too
meticulously as well as wearing narrow shoes which cram the toes too
tightly. While improper trimming of the toenails is the number one
cause for an Ingrown Toenail and tight footwear is number two, there are
a few other causes such as: congenital defects of the toenail being too
large for the toe or the toenail is unusually curved or abnormally
thick; and acute trauma of stubbing the toe, of dropping something heavy
on it or having it stepped on.
Home-Based Treatments For Ingrown Toenails
If they are recognized at an early stage and before infection sets in, Ingrown Toenails can effectively be treated at home:
- Bathe the affected toe in water that is as hot as can be tolerated three or four times a day.
- Between bathes, keep the affected toe completely dry.
- Wear open-toe shoes or sandals until the Ingrown Toenail has been cured. Closed shoes may be worn but they must be very roomy.
- If the pain is too severe, take ibuprofen or acetaminophen to relieve it.
- There should be an apparent improvement of the condition within two or three day. If, however, the Ingrown Toenail shows no improvement or even seems to have gotten worse, professional medical advice must be sought right away.
Professional Medical Treatments For Ingrown Toenails
If and when all of the home-based treatments failed and the Ingrown Toenails has become more inflamed, the swelling has spread, the pain is more severe and there is an oozing discharge, the site is now infected. The medical professional may do one or all of the following:
- Prescribe antibiotic medications for oral ingestion as well as an antibiotic topical.
- Surgery to remove part of the nail (partial nail avulsion), the entire nail (complete nail plate avulsion) and/or some of the surrounding soft tissue may be the next step of treatment process.
- It may take up to three or four months for the toenail to re-grow completely and in that time period the toe must be closely guarded from injury and kept very clean and dry to avoid an infection.
If the Ingrown Toenail goes unnoticed or the condition is simply ignored, the localized infection may spread into the local bone and beyond, which makes the condition a whole lot more serious. In diabetic patients whose blood circulation and nerve supply to the feet have been significantly curtailed, an untreated Ingrown Toenail may result in hard-to-treat open sores or foot ulcers which are likely cured by surgical removal. If and when foot ulcers are left untreated they can eventually become gangrenous and in extreme situation may require amputation as the only means by which to stop the dire condition from further spreading.
Be good to your toes and pay close attention to their needs.