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Ingrown Toenails

The Condition

Toenails, when ingrown or infected, can be a source of significant pain and discomfort. They can make mobility difficult and can limit walking and shoe wear. This problem occurs when the nail border becomes incurvated and grows into the adjacent skin fold. This causes irritation of the tissue and can lead to an open wound that allows for bacteria to invade the area.

The Treatment

Treatment of this condition typically involves removing the offending nail border. The nail border can be removed using either a temporary or permanent technique. Antibiotics may be prescribed to help resolve more fulminant infections. Patients should avoid attempting “bathroom surgery.” Repeated cutting of the nail can cause the condition to worsen over time. It is highly recommended that you visit with your podiatrist to have this problem managed.

Frequently Asked Questions

The most common reason for developing an ingrown nail is due to improper trimming techniques. When nails are cut too short this will predispose you to the formation of an ingrown nail. Other factors that can play a role in developing this problem are trauma and tight shoe wear. Genetic predisposition, due to nail shape and size, can also be a factor.
Ingrown nails can affect any of the toes. The great toe (hallux), however, is most commonly found to develop this problem.
The nail is much wider than you think. Attempts at “bathroom surgery” are usually unsuccessful and can lead to severe infections. A portion of the nail is usually left behind, which continues to act as an irritant to the soft tissue.
Signs and symptoms of infection can include redness, pain, swelling and drainage. If an infection is suspected, or for individuals who have medical conditions that put feet at high risk, such as diabetes, nerve damage in the foot, or poor circulation, immediate attention is recommended.
This minor in-office surgical procedure is quick and effective. Typically the toe is numbed with local anesthetic. The offending nail border is removed with specialized instruments. Chemical ablation of the nail root can be carried out to avoid regrowth of the nail border in the future. A bandage is applied to the toe and should remain intact for 12-24 hours.
Most people experience very little pain after surgery and may resume normal activity the next day.
Make sure to cut toenails straight across and file any sharp or prominent points. Avoid cutting the nails too short and avoid cutting the corners back into the skin folds. Wear well-fitted shoes that don’t irritate your toes. Topical medications are typically ineffective in preventing this problem.