When we mention nails, either fingernails or toenail, the first thing we might be thinking of is pedicure and manicure. While getting a pedicure or manicure sounds like the best way to make nails look beautiful and attractive, you might overlook the fact that such beauty acts may actually cause problems when not done correctly or with great hygiene. If you ask a doctor, you might be surprised to know that nail problems such as ingrown toenail may be solved or get worse with pedicure.
What exactly is ingrown toenail? Basically, it is a condition where the nail grows into the toe. In medical terms, it is known as onychocryptosis. It typically develops on the big toe as the corner of the toenail curves down and digs into the skin. The nail then curls and pierces the skin which leads to the array of symptoms.
Common symptoms of an ingrown toenail are inflammation signs such as red, swollen and tender skin at the end of the toe. Build-up fluid in the area surrounding the toe can be found. Overgrowth of skin around the affected toe may also be seen which may be felt as hardened skin. When it is infected, pus in colour of white or yellow may be seen around the affected area. Bleeding may also occur.
Ingrown toenails become more common in older people as the nails get thicker with age. Furthermore, these groups of age are more likely to get infection due to health problems such as diabetes or circulation issues. Not only older people are affected with ingrown toenails. Those who often wear tight fitting shoes, socks or tights may develop ingrown toenails as wearing such can place pressure on the skin around the toenail. Those with sweaty feet may also have high risk for an ingrown toenail as the soft skin around the toenails makes the nails easier to pierce the skin. One of the common mistakes that we all may have done, which is a badly cut toenails such as cutting toenails too short or cutting the edges, may have encouraged the skin to fold over the nail and cause the nail growing into the skin. Last but not least, the natural shape of the nail such as the fan-shaped toenails or naturally curved edges that is likely to press into skin around the nails, may be the cause of an ingrown toenail.
It is important to treat ingrown toenail as to be left untreated can lead to infection. There are things you can do to get rid of ingrown toenail. What you can do at home is to soak the foot in warm water 3-4 times daily for 15 minutes, keeping the foot dry all day and of course, to take pain relief that can easily be available in pharmacies as over-the-counter (OTC) medicine. However, if there is no improvement in 2-3 days or conditions get worse, you should definitely get medical advice as this may need more than just home remedy.
In case of severe ingrown toenails such as presence of excessive inflammation, swelling, pain and discharge, these may be signs of an already infected one. This kind of case typically needs to be treated by doctors. Doctors usually prescribe oral antibiotics to alleviate symptoms and removal of the ingrown part of the nails are usually needed. Removal of the ingrown nails can be partial or complete, depending on the severity. This procedure may sound painful but it is a minor surgery which means there is no need for hospitalisation and is done in the doctor’s office. Furthermore, doctors typically provide local anaesthesia to numb the toe and edges of the toenails.
For those with recurrent ingrown toenails, more extensive nail removal may be needed. Commonly, permanent removal of the nail may be advised in chronic and recurrent infected ingrown toenails. After one of the procedures, the exposed nail bed is treated with an antibiotic ointment and covered with non adherent dressing. Doctors may also apply phenol to the nail matrix (are below the cuticle that produces nail-creating cells) to prevent nail regrowth and becoming ingrown in future.
The best thing to do is to take preventative measures to reduce the likelihood of getting ingrown toenails. You are advised to avoid cutting toenails too short. When cutting nails, do cut straight across the nails and not an angel or down the edges. You are also advised to wear comfortable shoes, avoiding too tight or unfitting ones. Remember to change socks regularly to avoid possible infection and entrapped moisture. Always keep the feet clean by washing it regularly with soap and water. Do ensure to keep the feet clean and dry throughout the day. Incorporating foot moisturiser can be helpful. It is still necessary to meet doctors as soon as possible if you have problems with your feet.