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What is an ingrown nail?

An ingrown nail is also known as Unguis Incarnatus. It is a common disease that affects the nails, especially the big toe, but ingrown nails can occur in every nail. This often leads to infections of the toe, as bacteria enter into the damaged skin.

Nails don't grow normally over the flesh, and instead grow into the flesh.

An ingrown nail is often a very painful condition.

What causes ingrown nails?

Ingrown nails are most frequently caused by:

  • Wearing tight shoes
  • Wearing tight hosiery
  • Rounding the edges of the nail
  • Cutting your nails too short
  • Genetics
  • Trauma
  • Bacterial infections
  • Fungal infections

Signs and symptoms of an ingrown nail

The signs and symptoms of an ingrown nail vary with the severity of the condition. Usually you will have:

  • Redness
  • Swelling of the toe
  • Excessive warmth
  • A painful toe
  • Worsening of the pain when you wear shoes
  • Sensitivity to pressure
  • Drainage from the toe if infected
  • A foul odor of the toe if infected

How can an ingrown nail be prevented?

It is very important to wear appropriate shoes that are not too tight and that don't put pressure on your toes and nails.

Taking good care of the nails is also essential to prevent an ingrown nail as well as any infection or other diseases of the nails. Don't cut your nails too short, never shorter than the flesh around it. The nails also should not be cut along the curve.

One of the reasons for an ingrown toenail is trauma. Be very careful and don't hit your toes on things and don't drop things on them.

How is an ingrown toenail treated?

Be very careful if you try to treat your ingrown toenail at home. You could worsen the situation by trying to resolve it on your own if you suffer from diabetes, nerve damage of the foot, poor circulation or if you have an infection of the toenail.

There are two ways of treating an ingrown toenail depending of the severity:

  • Conservative treatment
  • Surgical treatment

In mild to moderate cases, conservative treatment is used. This treatment consists of warm water and salt soaks, as well as antibacterials. If this doesn't help, surgical treatment is required.

Surgical treatment consists of a partial avulsion of the lateral nail plate or even a complete removal of the toenail. In some cases, complete destruction of the side nail bed is required.

It is a minor surgery lasting less than an hour. Local anesthesia is typically used. After the surgery, you might feel pain, so analgesics are usually prescribed. Your doctor will also prescribe an antibiotic to reduce the possibility of an infection.

High heels and tight shoes are not recommended. Take good care of your nails right after the surgery. The possibility of recurrence is realistic.

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