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What Is an Ingrown Toenail?
An ingrown toenail is an often painful condition involving a toenail and the surrounding skin. Several medical conditions can cause pain or infection in nail bed or skin surrounding the toenail, so a podiatrist is sometimes needed to identify an ingrown nail. Proper assessment and treatment combined with future preventive measures can help reduce the chance for recurrence.
How to identify and treat ingrown toenails
An ingrown toenail, or onychocryptosis, is a common condition that can be caused by a number of health and behavioral factors. By properly identifying this condition, treatment of the nail can take place and preventive methods can be put into place to help prevent a repeat occurrence.
What are the symptoms of an ingrown toenail?
Symptoms of an ingrown nail can range from mild discomfort to severe pain that affects the patient’s ability to walk without a limp. Although many conditions of the toenail and surrounding skin have similar symptoms, ingrown toenails are usually identifiable by sight, showing some or all of these signs:
- Pain, which can vary in severity
- Redness in the skin surrounding the nail
- Swelling around the toenail
- Signs of infection, such as pus or drainage
- Visible penetration of the toenail into the skin
How can this condition be prevented?
Some individuals are more susceptible to ingrown toenails due to a genetic predisposition. The excessively thick or curved anatomical shape of the toenails of some individuals can lead to an increased risk. Medical conditions such as diabetes or vascular issues also increase the likelihood of developing chronic toenail issues.
Anyone can develop this condition under the right conditions, but there are some preventive measures that can be put into place. Avoid wearing shoes or hosiery that crowd the toes and are otherwise ill-fitting. Do not trim toenails too short and do not round the edges. Soak any damaged or broken toenails in Epsom salt and monitor them for infection.
What is the treatment plan?
Ingrown toenails that follow the usual course of healing need to be treated for the two primary problems, which are pain and infection potential. Over-the-counter pain medication can be used to treat pain, but a visit to the doctor may be needed to receive prescription antibiotics if signs of infection are present.
If the problem is caused by a fungal infection, antifungal treatment is prescribed. In some cases, part or all of the toenail needs to be removed by a podiatrist using local anesthesia. For individuals with chronic ingrown toenails, permanent toenail removal might be necessary to preserve the tissue of the toe.
Ingrown toenails are a common condition, but they can be painful and can lead to infection. Learning to recognize the symptoms of an ingrown toenail can help one get proper treatment and can sometimes prevent recurring toenail issues. In cases of chronic toenail infections or when there are complicated conditions like uncontrolled diabetes, a visit to the podiatrist may be necessary to see if permanent nail removal is recommended.
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