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In-growing Toenails

By: Jo Johnson - Updated: 3 Jan 2013 | comments*Discuss
In-growing Toenails; Nail Care; Nail

To suffer from in-growing toenails is a common complaint and can affect anyone of any age. If left untreated it can be extremely painful and affect mobility and quality of life.

What Exactly Are They?

Commonly affecting the big toe, in-growing toenails are toenails that have grown inwards into the flesh, often at the top corners. They often begin by simply exerting pressure onto the skin, but as they develop, can pierce the skin and embed into the tissue of the toe.

What Causes An In-Growing Toenail?

Often, the simplest reason for an in-growing toenail is because of poor foot care and laziness. Those who pick their toenails instead of trimming them as advised are more at risk. Any injury or trauma to the foot may also result in an in-growing toenail occurring as the nail bed can become damaged, causing the nail to grow in an abnormal manner. Those who are unable to maintain their foot care regime are also more at risk, as nails become long and can curl into itself and the surrounding tissues.

Children, teenagers and young adults are all more at risk of in-growing toenails, due to their physical ability to pick their toes, and because of their lifestyle. Being to busy to bathe and trim the nails, coupled with high levels of perspiration and sweat will all increase the risk.Sometimes, an alternative medical condition, commonly of the foot, may be to blame. Those who have poor posture, pace and step, or those who have deformities or abnormalities of the foot may also have a higher incidence rate.

Signs and Symptoms

Pain is a very regular feature of an in-growing toenail and often the first sign that something is wrong. The nail can appear ‘curled’ and dig itself into the surrounding flesh of the toe. As inflammation develops the area can become red and weep pus, symbolising an infection that must be treated before the infection spreads to the rest of the toe or even further.

Treating In-Growing Toenails

Treatment options vary depending on the severity of the problem. If the problem is treated early, it can be performed at home by keeping the nail clean and after bathing, using a cotton bud, encourage the skin to grow under the nail. If this is too painful or doesn’t seem to work, see a chiropodist who may be able to help. For those who have not sought early treatment, surgical intervention may be needed, often necessitating the removal of all or part of the nail usually carried out under local anaesthetic as a day patient.

Preventing In-Growing Toenails

In-growing toenail can be most easily treated by keeping the foot clean and the nails short. Trim them by using proper nail clippers or scissors, using a controlled movement, removing the excess nail by cutting straight across the top of the nail in a straight line. There is no need to try and shape the nail using the clippers as this is what often causes them to grow inwards. Very sharp edges can be reduced using a nail file, but if the nails are cut after a bath or shower when the nails are soft, this shouldn’t need doing.

For those with an underlying condition, with illnesses such as diabetes, or those on anti-coagulant medications, it is advised that a chiropodist is visited to attend to nail hygiene and cutting needs.

In-growing toenail can be very painful and cause problems with mobility in left untreated. It is essential that good foot and nail care is undertaken as part of everyday life to prevent this problem from occurring.

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