An ingrown toenail is a common condition that develops when the toenail grows and digs into the skin of the toe. While far from being a life-threatening condition, an ingrown toenail can cause pain on the affected toe, irritation, and infection since the nail lacerates the skin beneath it.
How does an ingrown toenail form?
There are many ways in which ingrown toenails form. The most common factor in the formation of ingrown toenails is when the nail is trimmed in a tapered manner. While the tapered corners help in shaping the nail to that of the toe, the nail eventually grows and curves inward, and it may dig into the skin tissue in which it is set after a matter of time.
Ingrown toenails also happen when a person wears shoes that are too tight, as the toes are compressed and the growing nail inevitably tears the skin due to the lack of space.
The occurrence of ingrown toenails may also be congenital-the nail can be too large for the toe itself.
Trauma may also be a factor in the development of ingrown toenails. The toe becomes at greater risk to forming ingrown nails when it receives force trauma, such as being stepped on or having been stubbed.
Symptoms of ingrown toenails
Having an ingrown toenail can be unnoticeable at first, but after a matter of days the affected toe will feel hard, tender, and swollen. It may also get red and become very sore. People with an ingrown toenail usually complain of the pain the big toe, with the aching concentrated on the edge of the toe.
What makes an ingrown toenail a serious condition is when it starts to bleed and release pus when then nail is extracted. This is because the affected part of the toe becomes exposed to further infection.
Another factor that makes an ingrown toenail serious is diabetes. Since persons with diabetes have a weaker immune system and do not respond well to infection, the wound brought by an ingrown toenail may not heal by itself. Immediate medical treatment should be performed on the affected toe, while the necessary medication to boost the patient’s immune system to respond to the wound must be taken to avoid further complications.
Treatment for ingrown toenails
For patients with mild cases of ingrown toenails, treatment usually involves self-care, proper nail grooming techniques, soaking, and avoidance of shoe pressure on the toes. Antibiotics may sometimes be prescribed to speed up the healing of the wound brought by the ingrown nail and prevent the spread of infection.
Ingrown toenail surgery meanwhile is recommended for patients with severe ingrown toenails. Surgical treatment usually consists of temporary resection and removal of the nail border, detachment of the nail border, or permanent extraction of the nail called matrixectomy.
In a matrixectomy, the cells in which the nail grows are destroyed so that the nail will no longer form and become ingrown. This procedure is done by dissection or through chemically induced destruction of the nail matrix.
Ingrown nail surgery is not for everyone, though. Like other surgical procedures, it is the last resort taken by doctors, especially when the condition has become chronic.
Patients who have undergone ingrown toenail surgery are recommended to follow after-care procedures, such as cleansing the wound in anti-microbial soap, application of antibacterial cream, and covering the wound in a small bandage at least twice a day for up to two weeks to prevent infection. Open or loose-fitting footwear is also advised to avoid putting pressure on the affected toe.