Ingrown Toenail Causes and Symptoms
This website is dedicated to the problem of ingrown toenails (onychocryptosis) and specifically the identification and treatment of the condition, either at home or with surgical procedures. In most cases a diagnosis is required by a doctor or podiatrist and is the best way of correctly identifying the condition and ensuring that a suitable treatment is prescribed. In the early stages quick intervention can prevent the condition from deteriorating and requiring a visit to a doctor.
The aim of this website is to provide information which is easy to understand, and to avoid complicated medical terms whenever possible and to outline the details of all aspects of the condition, and what you can expect in terms of both surgical and non-surgical treatment and the recovery process. The information on the site does not constitute medical advice and should be used to fill in any gaps in knowledge before or after visiting a doctor.
An ingrown toenail is one of the most common toe problems and varies in its degree of severity from minor discomfort to serious pain and an accompanying infection in many cases. It occurs when the toenail penetrates the skin at the side of the nail, most commonly on the outside of the big toe. The condition can occur on the inside of the big toe, small toes and even on the hands. In many cases, the nail only appears to be growing inwards and it is the associated swelling which hides the edge of the nail. When the nail causes a wound in the skin, the area becomes prone to bleeding and infection and the pain becomes more intense.
Ingrown toenail symptoms
- Pain along the margin of the nail
- Formation of pus
- Swelling and inflammation of the toe
- Pain which intensifies when pressure is increased such as by wearing socks and shoes
If there is pus (yellowish or white fluid) coming out from the toe or under the nail this could well be a sign of infection, and if pus is present it is always wise to visit a physician, to ensure that any infection is treated with antibiotics. Usually any infection needs to be fully cured before ingrown toenails can be effectively treated via surgery. If left untreated ingrown toenails do not usually resolve resolve themselves with the problem likely to deteriorate.
Causes and prevention
The main cause of the condition, as with many foot and toe complaints, is from wearing inappropriate footwear. When shoes are worn which feature a narrow toe box and the toes become cramped or bunched up, the pressures placed on the side of the nail can cause it to start to press into and penetrate the skin. If you are prone to sweaty feet this can significantly increase the chances of developing the condition. When the toes are subjected to a damp environment, the skin around the toes becomes softer increasing the chances of the nail becoming imbedded. Some people will be more prone to develop the problem, especially those with a more curved nail rather than flat nails.
Many cases of ingrown toenails are inadvertently self-inflicted by poor maintenance of the nails, such as by cutting the nails too short. If the nails are cut and rounded at the edges rather than being cut straight, the sharp edges or spikes can break the skin. The condition can be triggered by trauma when the nail or nail bed becomes damaged or less commonly they can have a genetic element such as a congenital nail abnormality.
In many cases ingrown toenail surgery can be avoided by early treatment and preventative measures. However should the underlying cause be difficult to treat, ingrown toenail surgery may be the best, or only option to prevent the condition from recurring.