Ingrown Toenails

What are they?

Ingrown toenails are a common problem particularly among teenagers. They occur when the end or side of the nail begins to grow into the skin of the toe. This growth causes swelling at the site where the nail is intruding in the skin. Infection may start shortly thereafter due bacteria that live on the feet invading the site. Although there is controversy as to whether poorly fitting shoes cause ingrown toenails or not, one thing seems certain: They can irritate an already ingrown nail, making it worse.

What are the symptoms?

Swelling and redness may be present where the nail meets the edge or end of the toe. This part of the toe is usually exquisitely painful. Pus may ooze from the where infection has set in.

What can/should be done at home

Once the ingrown nail has been clearly established, it is usually difficult to rectify the situation without having your health care provider remove the ingrown portion of the toenail. One thing to try prior to this is to give the toe some good, long soaks in warm water. This may soften up the skin and nail enough to allow it to be clipped back.

Prevention is the key:

  • Try to trim the nails no shorter than the edge of the toes. Most nails become ingrown at the edge of the nail. Therefore, if the end of the nail remains close to the end of the toe, it will have little chance to become ingrown at that spot.
  • Cut the nail straight across at the top but round the two corners to conform to the shape of the toe.
  • If you notice the nail starting to become ingrown, try gently lifting the edge to trim it back.

When to get immediate attention

If warm soaks are not relieving the pain, redness, and pus.

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