What are Ingrown Toenails?
Ingrown toenails occur when both edges of a toenail do not grow straight outwards. Instead, they grow down and curve inward into the flesh. It may also be referred to as onychocryptosis.
Ingrown toenails can cause redness, pain, and swelling in the affected toe—most commonly, it is the big toe that experiences ingrown toenails. However, some patients may also have ingrown toenails in any other toe of the foot.
What Are the Causes of Ingrown Toenails?
Ingrown toenails occur as a result of pressure applied to the toe and toenail. This can happen due to several different reasons, including:
- improper clipping of toenails
- trauma to the foot
- tight-fitting shoes
- excessive sweating of your feet—known as hyperhidrosis
- genetics—you may be born with ingrown toenails
- fungal infections
- regular sports
Though ingrown toenails can affect patients of all ages, it most frequently occurs in teenagers and young adults, especially those that play sports frequently.
What Are the Symptoms of Ingrown Toenails?
Symptoms of ingrown toenails include:
- swelling and tender to the touch
- presence of an infection, discharge
- skin growing over your ingrown nail
What to Expect During Treatment for Ingrown Toenails at the Podiatrist
Patients with diabetes or peripheral neuropathy should avoid in-home treatments and always seek podiatric help if they suspect they have an ingrown toenail. Managing your ingrown toenails by properly trimming them and regular podiatric checkups are key to reducing the risk of infection. If you're experiencing redness and discharge from your ingrown toenail, seek medical help from your podiatrist.
Your podiatrist will conduct a thorough foot exam, as well as current medical history, diet, and lifestyle, to determine the cause of your ingrown toenail and formulate a plan of treatment. Depending on your symptoms, you may also be required to take a blood test, as well as diagnostic and imaging tests such as X-rays, to rule out other possible problems.
Treatment can include:
- topical or oral medicines, if an infection is present
- proper trimming of your toenails with a sharp and clean toenail clipper
- footwear with wide toe boxes
- warm water foot soaks—done at home, only if no infection is present
For patients with chronic ingrown toenails, your podiatric physician may prescribe minor surgery to remove the ingrown toenail.