Ingrown toenail means that the toe is not growing properly in the nail bed and instead it grows towards the toe tissue. People who have ingrown toenails are always at risk of an infection, which occurs easily as the nail damages the tissue. Even if it is not infected, a toe with an ingrown nail is usually swollen, red and painful.
Causes of ingrown toe infections
Infections are very common on toenails that start growing inwards. Ingrown nails usually occur at the big toe, but they can affect other toes as well. As for the causes, the main ones are curved nails, improper trimming of the nail, where it is cut or filed round instead of straight, toe injuries and shoes that do not fit well. Diabetes is also a significant risk factor for ingrown toenail infections.
Treatment for ingrown toenail infections
Ingrown toenail infections that are not very severe can successfully be treated at home, using simple remedies. More serious infections should be evaluated and treated by a podiatrist.
When it comes to ingrown nails, the most important thing is to cut them or trim them straight across, so the corners protrude instead of growing inwards. If the anatomy if the nails is such that they grow curved at sides, it is important not to dig at the corners and to see a podiatrist who will take care of that.
The feet should always be clean, and the same goes for shoes and other footwear.
The infection can be treated with topical, over-the-counter antibiotic creams or lotions. Hydrogen peroxide also helps. Some people soak their feet in apple cider vinegar, which helps with the infection.
If the infection persists or if the toenail keeps growing inwards, it is better to see a podiatrist. These specialists can easily cut away the ingrown part, called the spike, but it is important to follow the measures listed above so the nail does not start growing inwards again.
In some cases, cutting the edges of the nail is not enough and the entire nail has to be removed. This is done in an outpatient procedure, using local anesthetic. After the nail is removed, the toe is treated with topical antibiotics and covered in sterile gauze. Some doctors prescribe oral antibiotics as well.
After the entire toenail is removed, it will grow back after some time, since the living part of the nail is left intact. The new nail may also start growing inwards, which is why it is important to trim it straight and to wear comfortable shoes.