An ingrown toenail occurs when a nail is curved downward and begins to grow and dig into the skin, often at the sides of the nail. This leads to irritation and subsequent pain, redness, swelling, and warmth of the toe. If the nail breaks the skin, an infection may occur in the area. This may lead to drainage and foul odor.
Ingrown toenails occur for a multitude to reasons, and in many people genetics play a role in the general shape of the nail growth. By far the most common cause of ingrown toenails is improper trimming. If a nail is cut too short, the skin next to the nail may fold over the nail. This can be worsened by poorly fitting or tight shoe gear.
Ingrown toenails can sometimes be treated at home initially, however when an infection is present this is highly discouraged. In those with medical conditions that put their feet at risk, such as those with poor circulation, diabetes, or nerve damage to the foot, all home treatment is discouraged.
Though treatment is best tailored to the individual, the treating physician may prescribe oral antibiotics or perform a simple surgery to remove a portion or all of the offending nail. In some cases, a permanent removal of a portion or all of the nail is indicated. Most people experience very little pain after these procedures and return to normal activity the next day.
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