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Diseases and Conditions
Ingrown toenailsFrom MayoClinic.com
Special to CNN.com
An ingrown toenail is a common condition in which the corner or side of one of your toenails grows into the soft flesh of your toe. The result is pain, redness, swelling and, sometimes, an infection. The condition usually affects your big toe.
Often, you can take care of ingrown toenails on your own. If the pain is severe or spreading, however, your doctor can take steps to relieve your discomfort and help you avoid complications.
If you have diabetes or another condition that causes poor circulation to your feet, you're at greater risk of complications from an ingrown toenail.
Signs and symptoms
Signs and symptoms of an ingrown toenail include:
Ingrown toenails result when the nail grows into the flesh of your toe, often the big toe. Common causes include:
Anyone can develop an ingrown toenail. But you may be more prone to ingrown toenails if you have toenails that curve down.
Ingrown toenails are also more common in older adults, because nails tend to thicken with age. This thickening or change to the curvature of your nails can cause ingrown toenails.
When to seek medical advice
If you experience severe discomfort in your toe or pus or redness that seems to be spreading, see your doctor. If you have diabetes or any circulation impairment to your lower extremities, seek the advice of a foot doctor (podiatrist) on how to properly care for ingrown toenails. Also seek prompt treatment for any foot sore or infection.
Left untreated or undetected, an ingrown toenail can infect the underlying bone and lead to a serious bone infection.
Complications can be especially severe if you have diabetes because the circulation and nerve supply to your feet can be impaired. Therefore, any relatively minor injury to your foot — cut, scrape, corn, callus or ingrown toenail — can lead to a more serious complication. In rare cases, an ingrown toenail can result in a difficult-to-heal open sore (foot ulcer), which could eventually require surgery. Foot ulcers left untreated may become infected and eventually even gangrenous. Sometimes amputation is the only treatment option.
If home remedies don't help, your doctor can treat an ingrown toenail by trimming or removing the ingrown portion of your nail to help relieve pain. Before this procedure, your doctor numbs your toe by injecting it with an anesthetic. After the procedure, you may need to rest your foot and soak it in warm water. Your doctor may also recommend using topical or oral antibiotics, especially if the toe is infected or at risk of becoming infected.
For a recurrent ingrown toenail, your primary doctor or foot doctor may suggest removing a portion of your toenail along with the underlying tissue (nail bed) to prevent that part of your nail from growing back. This procedure can be done with a chemical, a laser, or other methods.
To help prevent an ingrown toenail:
You can treat most ingrown toenails at home. Here's how:
March 17, 2005