It seems like the smallest injuries hurt the worst. Nothing is more painful and annoying than having a teeny tiny paper cut; unless, of course, you’ve had the misfortune of having an ingrown toenail. This type of nail has a curved shape on its sides that starts all the way from where the nail originates, under the cuticle. The ingrown nail forces its way into the skin on the sides. The slightest touch to the area can trigger pain. The abused skin may appear red and inflamed and can become infected. Any toe can become ingrown but it is more prevalent in the big toe of adolescents and adults.
So what causes a toe-nail to waiver from the straight and narrow path and go rouge?
There are various reasons you may acquire an ingrown toenail. This is one condition you can probably thank Mom and Dad for. The nail matrix, under the cuticle, makes the nail. As it forms, the nail will take on the shape that the matrix is in. If you are genetically predisposed to having a curved nail matrix, it is likely you will have nails that curve in as well. But before we get out the blame card, take a look at your shoe wear. Tight shoes will restrict the toenails, forcing them to grow down on the sides. This is seen often times with soccer players, who know tight cleats are a caveat of the sport. Another big contributor to ingrown nails is nail care. Toenails should be trimmed as straight as possible and should be no longer than the toe itself.
Ingrown toenails, if not treated, can become a serious problem. The toenail may cut the skin providing an entrance way for bacteria. If allowed to cultivate, an infection will occur. In severe instances the infection could even reach the toe bone causing osteomyelitis, or infection of the bone. For many people, pain alone will send them running to the podiatrist. That is the gift of pain. It alerts us to problems. But for those with diabetes and peripheral neuropathy, an ingrown toenail may go unnoticed and the severe consequences can sneak by.
With a podiatrists care, an ingrown toenail can be easily resolved by a simple in-office procedure. The ingrown portion of the nail is painlessly removed and a chemical is applied to the matrix to stop that portion of the nail from returning. All without a single incision, the toenail is permanently cured. After it’s healed, the toe will feel and look brand new. If you have an ingrown nail, soak it in warm water with salt and apply a topical antibiotic and cover with a Band-Aid.