Painful inward growth of the edges of a toenail into the surrounding skin
An ingrown toenail curves under on one or both sides and cuts into the surrounding skin, causing inflammation and sometimes infection. The condition, which most commonly affects the big toe, is often due to ill-fitting shoes pressing on an incorrectly cut nail. In some cases, injury can cause the skin around the nail to overgrow and engulf part of the nail. Poor foot hygiene can also increase the risk of infection, leading to inflammation.
The symptoms of an ingrown toenail may include the following:
Pain, redness, and swelling around the toenail.
Broken skin at the nail edge, which oozes clear fluid, pus, or blood.
You should consult your doctor as soon as you notice a toenail that has become ingrown because it is possible that your toe may be infected.
You can relieve the pain of an ingrown toenail by bathing your foot in warm salt water daily and taking painkillers. You should protect the affected toe by keeping it covered with a clean, dry gauze. If there is no improvement within a few days, you should consult your doctor. If your toenail is infected, he or she may prescribe oral antibiotics or topical antibiotics (see Preparations for skin infections and infestations).
To help to prevent an ingrown toenail from recurring, keep your feet clean and wear correctly fitting shoes. Your toenails should be cut straight across, rather than along a curve, to prevent them from growing into the skin. If the problem recurs, your doctor may suggest that you have part or all of the toenail removed to stop it growing into the toe (see Removal of an ingrown toenail).
From the 2010 revision of the Complete Home Medical Guide © Dorling Kindersley Limited.