Toenails are supposed to grow across the skin. But, sometimes, the toenail grows into the skin and gets infected. Ingrown toenails are common and most often occur on the big toe. Possible symptoms include pain, redness, swelling and pus drainage.
Adults are more likely to get ingrown toenails compared to children, particularly those who have thick or curved nails. Cutting your toenails too short or attempting to create a round shape raises your odds of suffering ingrown toenails. Ill-fitting footwear can also lead to ingrown toenails, especially when shoes are too tight which puts added pressure on the nail against the skin. Ingrown toenails can also occur due to physical trauma, like stubbing your toe. For example, soccer players are more susceptible because they are constantly kicking the ball with the tips of their feet.
Most often, patients with ingrown toenails first feel pain as the nail begins to grow into the skin. When symptoms worsen and an infection occurs, redness and swelling may follow. Always visit your podiatrist at the first sign of an ingrown toenail to eliminate your odds of a future infection. Sometimes, an ingrown toenail can be treated at home with warm water soaks and adding a buffer (usually wet cotton) under the corner of the nail. However, this is reserved for mild cases. If you suffer an infection, you may need antibiotics to recuperate.
Depending on the severity of the ingrown toenail, surgery for removal is sometimes necessary. We first numb the toe and then cut the edge of the nail, pulling out the piece in full. From there, we destroy all or part of the nail root in a process called ablation so that the nail does not regrow in the same manner.