An Ingrown Toenail or onychocryptosis is a problem that will effect most people at some point in their life. Thankfully, this problem can generally be prevented as well as cured if it becomes a recurrent problem. An ingrown toenail results from the nail growing into the skin around it. This often occurs at either edge of the big toe. Many times they are hereditary, passed down from parent to child.
You may experience a range of symptoms from mild tenderness at the tip of the nail through to significant pain in the entire toe. You may notice swelling, redness and if infected, there may also be pus & a strong odour. It can occur on any toe, on one or both sides but most commonly affects the inner side of the large toe.
It most commonly occurs for two main reasons:
1. poor cutting technique i.e. cutting the nail too far down the side & leaving behind a sharp edge or, cutting the skin & causing an infection
2. poor nail growth i.e. the nail, instead of growing flat, has a curvature which can either irritate the surrounding skin or, make it very difficult to cut the nail.
Nail growth is genetically determined. If a parent or grandparent has had a problem, a child or grandchild is at a greater risk of developing the same problem.
The old adage "prevention is better than cure", applies to ingrown toenails. The most important point is correct cutting of the nail (see image). Use a clean pair, of good quality nippers.
Attempt to cut the nail straight across. File the corners, do not cut down the sides. If your nail has an irritating rough edge, smooth it down with an emery board, again following the natural curve of the nail. Never yank out a ragged nail fragment. This can lead to a nasty infection. Some people, even after cutting the nail correctly, still develop problems. There are also many people that physically cannot reach their feet or toenails & also develop problems. If you can't look after your toenails then see a Podiatrist.
Over-the-counter preparations are virtually worthless for an ingrown toenail and using them can be dangerous particularly if you have diabetes or circulation problems. Seeing a Podiatrist can save you a lot of pain & money in the long run. Probing under a toenail is very risky. Many people dig scissors tips under a toenail to lift and cut its corners or attempt to place cotton wool under the nail edge. This often can lead to an infection and if not treated, requires much more involved procedures. If an ingrown toenail should develop, you should see a Podiatrist immediately.