Ingrown toenail (onychocryptosis)
Last update: 23 October 2021
Ingrown toenails are a frequent nail issue that can be extremely painful and even incapacitating. It’s identified by a toenail that grows into the flesh and punctures it.
Ingrown toenails cause irritation and, in the worst-case scenario, infection, resulting in painful toes.
As a result, it is critical to address the problem as soon as possible in order to prevent the situation from spiralling out of control.
Let’s look at the causes, symptoms, and remedies for ingrown toenails.
Ingrown toenail symptoms
An ingrown toenail can be identified by a variety of symptoms. Inflammatory redness, pain when squeezed, and, in some circumstances, blood or pus on the side of your nail are all possible symptoms.
However, keep in mind that an ingrown toenail has three stages;
- First stage: there is a small inflammation and pain when pressed.
- Second stage: we observe an infection and the wound becomes more visible.
- Third stage: we notice an inflammation which becomes chronic by the formation of a bulge. Diabetics may even notice the formation of an ulcer in the affected area.
Regardless of the stage, you should see your podiatrist so that he or she can prescribe the best treatment for your ingrown toenails.
Ingrown toenail complications
Even though no one is truly immune to ingrown toenails, some people are at a higher risk of problems.
This is true for persons who have diabetes or have arterial issues like atherosclerosis.
If an ingrown toenail isn’t treated, it can lead to a variety of issues:
- Infection of the toe bone (osteomyelitis)
- Infection of surrounding foot tissue such as tendons and joints
- Fungal infection such as nail fungus
- Necrosis of the toe tissue in a diabetic foot
Ingrown toenail diagnosis
Ingrown toenails have distinct symptoms that are easy to recognise. Nonetheless, the podiatrist may conduct a series of tests to ensure that the right treatment is given or to determine the reason of the ingrown toenail.
To diagnose an ingrown toenail and the factors that cause it, the podiatrist can utilise the following diagnostic methods:
- Visual examination of the foot
- A digital x-ray of the foot to ensure that a bone injury is not the cause of the ingrown toenail
A mycotic nail culture, only used if the podiatrist suspects a fungal infection
Causes and risk factors
Onychocryptosis is a condition that affects people for a variety of reasons. There are several possible causes to it.
Ingrown toenails can be caused by a number of circumstances.
- Nail shapes: wide, curved or thick nails can tend to cause ingrown toenails.
- Nail care: poor nail cutting (too short or too sharp) and irregular nail care can lead to ingrown toenails.
- Infection: the presence of an infection such as nail fungus (onychomycosis) can promote the formation of ingrown toenails.
- Shoes: wearing shoes that are too tight or ill-fitting for the foot can cause problems with toenails due to excessive pressure.
- Excessive sweating: commonly called hyperhidrosis, excessive sweat production predisposes the foot to developing an ingrown toenail because it softens the skin around the toenail.
- Foot bunion (hallux valgus): this deformation of the big toe reduces the space in the shoe and also makes it more vulnerable to ingrown toenails.
- Repeated microtrauma: in the context of a sport such as running or a manual professional activity, feet that are victims of repeated trauma can promote the appearance of ingrown toenails
- Pronation or supination: even a slight deviation of the foot during walking has an influence on the deformation of the toe and its nail.
Ingrown toenail prevention
It is possible to prevent the occurrence of some skin disorders on your feet. Here are a few of our recommendations.
- Shoes: Shoes that are overly tight or have narrow toes should be avoided.
Nail length: Avoid cutting your nails too short. Straighten your nails with gently rounded corners. Also, avoid cutting your nails on the sides at an angle.
Some people, unfortunately, experience ingrown toenails on a frequent basis.
As a result, medical professionals provide a variety of treatments to help relieve discomfort and decrease the incidence of onychocryptosis.
- Medical nail trimming: trimming the infected nail with or without anaesthetic to relieve discomfort and allow the nail to heal.
- Prescription antibiotics: your podiatrist can prescribe creams that are better suited to your problem.
- Orthonyxia: a titanium or polymer-based nail orthosis to correct the deformity of a nail that can cause an ingrown toenail.
- Surgery for ingrown toenails (matrixectomy): effective, almost painless, under local anaesthesia, aesthetic in appearance and which permanently eliminates the problem
- Therapeutic taping: installed according to a precise technique, it serves to protect the toe and foot from infections between treatments
A local anaesthetic may be required under some circumstances. You can be certain, though, that the sooner you call a specialist, the better off you’ll be.
Home remedies for ingrown toenails
If you have an ingrown toenail, there are several options for relieving the pain.
Here are some suggestions for how to go about it:
- Foot baths that disinfect the wound: immerse your foot in salt water to disinfect the wound. 1-2 times a day, repeat.
- Antibiotic cream: get over-the-counter medical products
- Disinfect and dry the foot: after coming out of the shower, properly clean your foot with soap and make sure it is completely dry.
- Bandage the foot: after cleaning, disinfecting and drying the foot, apply a sterile gauze pad to protect the toe.
However, keep in mind that these suggestions are not a replacement for a visit to a podiatrist. And, of course, don’t delay!
FootNetwork – Learn more
Do you have any further concerns about ingrown toenails? We publish articles on the subject on a regular basis!
Despite the fact that the FootNetwork website has a lot of info about toenail pathologies, it is not a substitute for a visit with a podiatrist.
Take care of your feet, they’re precious!