Even a small body part like the toenail can give excruciating pain that can reverberate throughout the body. The ingrown toenail, also called the onychocryptosis or unguis incarnates, occurs when a corner of the nail penetrates into the skin, usually at the side of the toe. This causes extreme pain and inflammation.
If not treated, it can grow extra tissue, cause yellowish fluid discharge, or even result in infection or abscess that may require surgery. Osteomyelitis, a bone infection, is a possible complication of ingrown toenail.
Ingrown toenail is more common in adults than children and infants. Men are more prone to this condition than women. As for the age group, it's adults in their 20s or 30s who are at most risk of developing this condition. Any toenail can develop an ingrown but the big toe is the most common victim.
One common cause of ingrown toenail is tight-fitting shoes that put pressure on the toes, causing them to grow abnormally. Incorrect toenail trimming is another culprit. Nails that are trimmed in a rounded fashion eventually digs into the skin. Medical conditions like fungal infections that thicken or widen the toenail and acute injuries around the nail are other causes of ingrown toenails. It also runs in the family. If anyone in your family has an ingrown toenail, there is a big chance that you'll have one too.
Pain, redness, and inflammation of the corner of the toenail are the most common symptoms of ingrown toenail. During the early stage of the condition, you'll find the end of the toe becoming red. It is accompanied by mild swelling but there is no pus or drainage. It would feel warm to the touch but you don't have any fever.
Later on, excess skin and tissue will grow around the nail's sharp point. This is when a yellowish fluid discharge may come out. In some cases, infection occurs. If it does, the swelling will become more inflamed and you may have fever.
To avoid worsening of the condition, self-care at home should be in order. This would help relieve the pain and alleviate the condition enough to avoid surgical treatment.
For one, you need to soak your foot in warm water four times a day. Don't add soap or any antibacterial solution. Wash the foot with soap and water. Give special attention to the affected area.
Keep your foot clean and dry throughout the day to avoid infection.
Stop wearing high heels or any tight-fitting shoes. Sandals are the ideal footwear, at least until the condition is treated.
Also, it would help to lift up the corner of the nail digging into the skin gently. Using a rolled small piece of cotton or gauze, place this under the nail to keep it elevated. This is quite painful but it would help prevent further penetration. It would take about 7 to 15 days until the excess skin grows out. Be sure to change the cotton roll everyday. If the pain is too much, you might want to take pain relievers such as acetaminophen (Tylenol) or ibuprofen (Advil, Motrin).
As for prevention, proper clipping of the toenails is the best way to avoid this condition. Be sure to cut your toenails straight across and not rounded. Always wear well-fitting shoes and keep the feet clean and dry.