The disorder popularly known as ” ingrown toenails ” in medical terms is known as onychocryptosis.
Typical unpleasant and unsightly condition of toenails , onychocryptosis occurs when a sharp corner of the toenail penetrates the skin causing pain , redness and inflammation. If not treated right from the very first symptoms , an ingrown toenail can be the trigger for more or less superficial foot infections; in the most serious cases, onychocryptosis can cause very painful abscesses that require surgery.
Incidence And Target
Who Are The Individuals Most Affected By Ingrown Toenails?
Among the countless nail diseases , onychocryptosis is undoubtedly one of the most common.
Ingrown toenails tend to appear especially among young adults between the ages of 20 and 30; normally, males are more exposed to the risk but females can also experience the same symptoms.
The phenomenon is extremely rare in children and infants, probably because the nails are not particularly thick or too hard.
Causes And Risk Factors
Why Does An Ingrown Nail Form?
The problem of ingrown toenails appears whenever the nail bed is too small to support the nail plate, which in turn pushes deeper and deeper, creating pain and inflammation . Growing abnormally, the sharp corner of the outer edge of the nail can pierce the skin, eventually causing infection.
In this regard, it should be emphasized that the way in which the nails are cut is extremely important: in fact, when torn or cut too short and crooked, the nails tend to grow back abnormally or laterally, setting the stage for onychocryptosis.
In addition to the causes described above, other important risk factors have been identified, possibly responsible for ingrown toenails. The long list of risk factors includes:
- Arthritis ;
- Congenital deformities of the feet;
- Continuous trauma to the feet;
- Diabetes ;
- Very long toes ;
- Excessive sweating of the feet;
- Fungal infection of the toenails (onychomycosis);
- Poor toenail surgery;
- Toenail diseases in general;
- incorrect posture ;
- Using shoes that are too tight;
- Poor foot hygiene.
What Are The Symptoms Of Ingrown Toenail? How To Recognize It?
Ingrown nails always cause localized pain, discomfort, redness and swelling; often, small vesicles filled with milky or yellowish liquid can be observed which tend to burst giving off a bad smell. The inflammation triggered by the ingrown toenail reflexively causes the skin at the lesion to thicken, leading to further pain and injury.
The pain caused by the ingrown toenail is accentuated by wearing excessively tight shoes; sometimes, the discomfort produced is so severe that even the simple contact of socks or a sheet on the affected toe can be downright unpleasant.
What Are The Complications Of Ingrown Toenails?
When not treated properly, an ingrown toenail can trigger local infections of various entities. Progressing, the infection caused by the nail can then spread to the surrounding tissues until it causes abscesses or osteomyelitis (infection of the bone corresponding to the finger involved in onychocryptosis).
Particularly in the case of diabetes, the complications derived from an ingrown toenail can be devastating as blood circulation is compromised; therefore, any type of injury to the feet (such as, for example, cuts, abrasions, calluses and ingrown toenails) can cause very serious infections.
When ingrown toenails cause open, painful sores , surgery is usually recommended to minimize the risk of gangrene .
What To Do
What To Do And How To Behave In Case Of Ingrown Nail?
When you realize the presence of an ingrown toenail, even if the disturbance seems minor, the consultation of a doctor or a competent person is always recommended to minimize the risk of infection or other complications.
The medical figure to refer to in the presence (or in case of suspicion) of ingrown toenails is the podiatrist; when the disturbance is serious, it is necessary to consult a surgeon.
In particular, recourse to medical advice is important when:
- Symptoms persist;
- you have diabetes;
- You suffer from foot conditions (for example, diabetic neuropathy );
- Your immune system is compromised.
In principle, however, the advice is not to underestimate the problem and not wait for the disorder to resolve itself; in fact, continuing to grow, the nail could become more ingrown leading to the appearance of more or less severe complications. Therefore, it is always advisable to contact competent personnel in the matter, a doctor or specialized health professionals.
Do-it-yourself remedies are always not recommended, even more so if there is an infection in progress. For example, it is essential not to use needles or other sharp objects to burst any liquid-filled blisters formed near the ingrown nail; in fact, such behavior would expose the patient to the risk of new infections as well as the risk of more or less seriously injuring the affected finger.
How To Cure An Ingrown Toenail?
In general, the treatment of ingrown toenails depends on the severity of the condition:
- When the problem is superficial , the patient will undergo a conservative treatment which includes numerous foot baths in very hot water, the multi-daily application of an antibacterial and the use of a cotton ball to be inserted just below the edge of the nail to prevent it from growing inadequately. Elastic bandage is also a (relatively effective) alternative to reduce the symptoms caused by ingrown toenails. The method involves physically “pulling” the skin of the finger near the ingrown nail by wrapping the same finger with a special elastic patch: in this way, it is possible to reduce the pressure ( exerted by the ingrown nail on the skin) and, at the same time, improve the drainage of the pus accumulated in situ.
- When the ingrown toenail grows deep into the skin, causing infection, pain, and other complications, partial surgical removal (extraction) of the nail plate is required . Generally, the surgical treatment – performed under local anesthesia with drugs such as lidocaine – is supported by a local antibiotic treatment to be applied in the 7-15 days following the operation.
- To avoid the surgical removal of the infected and ingrown nail, an innovative solution method has recently been devised which involves inserting a special brace (a sort of spring) directly into the affected nail, so as to favor its growth in an adequate way. and correct its curvature .
Antibiotics may be necessary as a complementary therapy: when the ingrown toenail causes a bacterial infection , the patient may resort to the use of specific antibiotic drugs which must be prescribed by the doctor. It will then be this healthcare figure who decides which active ingredient to use, in which dose and by which route of administration (local or oral).
How Can An Ingrown Toe Nail Be Prevented?
Undoubtedly, one of the best ways to prevent ingrown toenails is to trim them properly ; more precisely:
- It is important to maintain a certain length of the nail (avoid the nail being too short);
- The cut must be straight, avoiding cutting the nails in a curved way, in doing so, the risk of them becoming ingrown is minimized.
Other useful behaviors and expedients consist of:
- Wear comfortable and not too tight footwear ;
- Maintain good personal hygiene by washing your feet every day, drying them carefully and changing your socks frequently. These precautions, among other things, are also essential to prevent any infections in an already present context of onychocryptosis. For this purpose, it is also advisable to leave the feet uncovered (without socks) during the night to help keep the foot dry;
- Prefer socks in natural and breathable fabrics, avoiding those in synthetic fabrics if possible;
- Before engaging in a sporting activity, subjects prone to ingrown toenails should protect their toes by wrapping them gently on specific sterile-elastic bandages.