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Ingrown Toenail Care

Ingrown toenails

Ingrown toenails are painful. The proper medical term is onychocryptosis. The large toe is the one most often involved.

Ingrown toenails occur when the skin surrounding or bordering the nail is punctured by the nail. The body reacts as it would to a foreign body. First there is inflammation, often followed by infection. This may result in a painful, draining, and foul-smelling lesion of the involved toe.

The best way to help prevent an ingrown toenail is to trim the nail properly. Toenails should be cut straight across and not pointed or too short. The corners should not be rounded off.

Improper nail trimming, repetitive or unintentional trauma, hyperhidrosis (excessive sweating), and poor foot hygiene all predispose a person to ingrown toenails.

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There are some medical conditions associated with ingrown toenails. These include diabetes, obesity, thyroid, cardiac, and kidney diseases. All of these conditions may have lower extremity edema (swollen legs and feet).

An ingrown toenail is called mild to moderate when there is minimal to moderate pain with pressure, little erythema (redness of the skin), and no purulent drainage.

Moderate to severe ingrown toenails are associated with severe, disabling pain, marked erythema, and purulent drainage.

Indications for the treatment of ingrown toenail include significant pain or infection; a deformed, curved nail; or chronic, recurrent nail-fold inflammation (paronychia).

Simple things you can do at home initially include:

  • Foot soaks in warm, soapy water
  • Application of topical antibiotic ointment or mid-potency to high-potency steroid cream or ointment
  • Placement of thin cotton wisps or dental floss under the edge of the ingrown toenail

If you are diabetic or there is purulent drainage, then you need to be seen by your physician or podiatrist. They may try other conservative therapy before recommending surgical treatments. Surgical treatments include as partial or complete nail removal.