Ingrown toenails

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Many people suffer from ingrown toenails and it is one of the conditions most frequently treated by podiatrists.

It is a painful condition in which the side of the toenail appears to grow into the skin, or the side of the toenail grows over the ridge of the nail. Inflammation is a common side effect of ingrown toenails.

Causes of ingrown toenails
There are many different things that cause ingrown toenails. Curly toes or very large toes often result in ingrown toenails. An injury to ths skin can also cause the edge of the nail to push into the skin. Incorrect trimming, incorrect shoes (especially with very narrow toes), very tight socks or stockings and frequent running can all cause this unpleasant condition.

Signs and symptoms
Infection is what often alerts people to an ingrown toenail. Red painful swelling on one or boths ides of the nail, is a sign of infection. If left untreated, this infection can become severe and will require anntibiotics and intervention with sterile instruments. It is never a good idea to try and fix it yourself.

Treatment of ingrown toenails
If an ingrown toenail is uninfected, the following treatment is advised:

  • The feet must be soaked in warm soapy water;
  • They must be dried thoroughly with a clean towel;
  • An antiseptic solution must be applied to the area;
  • The toe must be bandaged.

You can also speak to your pharmacist to find out more about over-the-counter remedies that can be used to make the soft tissue around the nail, encouraging the nail to grow normally again.

If there is swelling, pain and inflammation, home remedies are not a good idea. A podiatrist can cut the toenail using a scalpel and treating the infection that has been caused by it.

Sometimes this does not work, and a few weeks down the line, the infected ingrown toenail is back. What can be done in such a case, is to remove a small portion of the nail and the part of the nail that actually grows, preventing it from growing back in the problem area. Sometimes a chemical solution is used to achieve the same end. In severe cases, an infected nail may have to be removed with a scalpel.

Prevention of ingrown toenails
Preventing ingrown toenails is usually not difficult, unless they are genetically inherited. Wearing the right shoes can go a long way towards sorting out this problem. These are shoes where the front of the foot is not squashed up and there is enough room for the toes. When cutting the nails, they should be trimmed in a straight line and kept fairly short.

(Health24. updated September 2010. Information from the South African Podiatry Association)

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