What Is An Ingrown Toenail?

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What Is An Ingrown Toenail?


An ingrown toenail is caused by the pressure from the nail edge into the outer sides of the skin of the toe. Once the edge of the nail breaks through the skin, it digs in on the sides of the toenail, causing pain, tenderness, redness and inflammation. Initially, it can present as discomfort with shoes on or a slight touch but left untreated it may progress into an infection.  Ingrown toenails occur in both men and woman and affect teenagers through to the elderly population. Ingrown toenails mostly occur in the big toenail, however can occur on any of the toes.


What causes ingrown toenails?

An imbalance between the size of the toenail and the enlargement of the nail skin edge causes an ingrown toenail. This condition can be aggravated by improper cutting of the toenail, improper foot hygiene, obesity, a hereditary condition, and improper shoe fitting. Common injuries such as stubbing your toe or dropping something heavy on your toes may result in damage to the nail edges causing an ingrown toenail.  Aggressive pedicures and nail picking are also common causes. Some people’s toenails naturally curl inward, these toenails are called involuted toenails and can present to be extremely painful.


What causes ingrown toenails with teenagers/athletes?

During extensive athletic activities, it is common to perspire in the feet.  This retains the moisture in the skin around the toes for prolonged periods therefore is more susceptible to areas of skin breaking down which often results in an ingrown toenail. Activities in which you repeatedly kick an object or put pressure on your feet for long periods of time can cause toenail damage and increase your risk of ingrown toenails.


A Podiatrist’s role in treatment for ingrown toenails

With thorough examination and a comprehensive medical history, a Podiatrist can remove the ingrown toenail by a minor surgical procedure. The surgery is performed in a sterile environment, where the side or sides of the affected toenail is removed to elevate the pain. In some cases, a chemical substance is applied to the sides of the nail to kill the nail cells ensuring it does not grow back. Post-operatively ongoing proper toenail trimming from a Podiatrist can reduce the risk of an ingrown toenail from re-occurring.


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