Ingrown Toe Nails

An ingrown toenail is a painful condition of the toe. It occurs when a sharp corner of the toenail digs into the skin at the end of or side of the toe.Pain and inflammation at the spot where the nail curls into the skin occurs first. If left untreated, an ingrown toe nail can progress to an infection or even an abscess that requires surgical treatment. Ingrown toenails are common in adults but uncommon in children and infants. Any toenail can become ingrown, but the condition is usually found in the big toe.

Causes of Ingrown Toe Nails

  • Tight-fitting shoes or high heels cause the toes to be compressed and that leads to abnormal nail growth
  • Improper trimming of toenails can cause the corners of the nail to dig into the skin. Nails should be trimmed straight across, not rounded
  • Disorders such as fungal infections of the nail can cause a thickened or widened toenail to develop
  • Injury near the nail may cause an ingrown toenail
  • If a member of the family has it then it is likely the other member will also develop one

Symptoms of Ingrown Toe Nails

It affects the outer edge of the big toe. However, the nail on any toe, or the nail on both sides of a toe can become ingrown. The most common signs and symptoms are pain, redness, and swelling at the corner of a toenail. In the initial stages of an ingrown toenail, the end of the toe becomes reddened and painful with mild swelling. There is no pus or drainage. It may feel warm to the touch, but you may not have a fever. Once an infection has developed, the swelling will become worse, and there may be white or yellow-colored drainage from the area. A lighter colored area of the skin may be surrounded by red skin. You may develop a fever, although this is unusual.

When to Seek Medical Help

In case the ingrown toenail has developed into an infection (drainage, a fever, lighter skin surrounded by red skin, or worsening pain and swelling), then one should see the doctor. Even if the ingrown toenail is only inflammed without infection, then if the following conditions occur one must consult a doctor

  • If it has been more than 5 years since your last tetanus booster shot
  • If there is no improvement after 3 days of home care
  • If you are a diabetic, have poor circulation, AIDS, are on chemotherapy, or have another reason for poor healing or increased risk of infection

Inase the situation is serious then go to the emergency department. For example,

  • If you are a diabetic or at increased risk for infection and your regular physician is unavailable (even if the toe is not infected yet)
  • If you are a diabetic or at increased risk for infection and have any fever or sign of infection in the toe