Ingrown toenail also known as onychocryptosis, is a common condition that occurs when the sides of the toenails grow into the surrounding skin. When the edges of the nail break through the skin, the ingrown toenail can cause pain, redness, swelling, tenderness and, if not properly cared for, an infection. Most frequently, this condition affects the large toes, but it can happen on other toes as well.
There are number of risk factors and causes for ingrown toenails, such as:
- improper trimming of the toenail
- wearing shoes or socks that don’t fit
- injuring the toe
- playing certain sports such as running, tennis, soccer or basketball
- having curved toenails
- putting repetitive pressure to the feet
- not maintaining proper hygiene
- fungal infections
- excessive sweating of the feet
- genetic predisposition
There are three stages of ingrown toenails: mild, moderate, and severe. A podiatrist can diagnose the condition and its stage based on the symptoms, and with a physical examination of the nail and the surrounding skin. Depending on the severity of the symptoms, the doctor can recommend topical or oral antibiotics. If the toenail doesn’t improve, surgery may be recommended to remove a part of the toenail (partial nail removal), or the whole toenail (total nail removal). These procedures are common and performed under a local anesthetic.
To prevent this condition, it’s crucial to cut the nails straight across, wash the feet every day, wear roomy and comfortable shoes that fit properly, change socks regularly, and check the feet for signs of this or other foot problems.