An ingrown toenail is a condition wherein the side or corner of a toenail curves into the skin and flesh, or if the skin on either one side or both sides of a toenail grows over its edge. At the initial stages, the area of the ingrown toenail may become hard, tender, and swollen. Afterwards, the area may become red, get infected and very painful, even causing an abscess to form, requiring surgical intervention. Although the condition can occur in any of the toes, usually it is the big toe that is affected. Ingrown toenails are quite a common condition which usually affects teenagers and adults, and is quite uncommon in infants and children.

What are the Causes of

Ingrown Toenails?

There are a number of reasons why ingrown toenails may develop. In some people, it just may be a hereditary condition. Or, it may be caused due to a trauma like the toe being stubbed, or if a heavy object falls on the toe, or if somebody steps on the toe, or taking part in activities wherein forceful pressure is applied repeatedly on the toe, like running or kicking.

Ingrown toenails can also be caused due to wearing tight fitting shoes. Another very common cause is trimming the toenails incorrectly. If the toenails are cut too short, there is a tendency for the skin near the nail to grow over it, or for the nail to grow into it.

Certain conditions of the nails are also usually related with ingrown toenails, which makes you more susceptible to ingrown toenails, such as a fungal infection in the toenail or if a toenail has been lost due too some trauma.

Since nails have a tendency of thickening with age, which can change their curvature, ingrown toenails also occur amongst the elderly.

What are the Complications of an

Ingrown Toenail?

If an ingrown toenail is undetected or left untreated, the underlying bone can become infected, which can result in a serious infection of the bone.

The complications of ingrown toenails can be particularly acute in people who are diabetic, since the nerve supply and blood supply is usually impaired. Hence, even a relatively small injury to the foot, such as a scrape, cut, callus, corn, or an ingrown toenail, can result in a more severe complication. Sometimes, an ingrown toenail may lead to a foot ulcer that does not respond to conventional treatment, eventually requiring surgery. If foot ulcers are not treated, it may result in infection and even become gangrenous. Even though it is rare, the only option of treatment then is an amputation.

Caring for an

Ingrown Toenail at Home

In the early stages of an ingrown toenail, if there is no infection and if the symptoms are not severe, home care can be effective in alleviating it:

You can soak the affected foot in warm water, with Epsom’s salt added to it if you want, about four times a day. You can massage the affected area gently in order to lessen the inflammation. The rest of the time, the foot should be kept dry.

Although some people advise lifting up the nail corner and inserting a small piece of cotton, this is usually painful and can even be harmful, since it could lead to infection.

Also, it is advisable not to cut the affected nail repeatedly, as this may exacerbate the condition.

In case there is no improvement of the condition in three days, it is best to get the condition treated medically.

Prevention of Ingrown Toenails

One of the best ways of preventing ingrown toenails is to clip the toenails straight across, and not in a rounded manner. Also, care needs to be taken to not cut them too short.

The shoes you wear should be well-fitting. They should not be too tight, particularly in the toe area. Also, loose shoes should be avoided as well, as they too lead to too much pressure being applied on the toes, particularly when you walk briskly or run.

The feet should be kept dry and clean.