What are ingrown toenails? How do they develop? Why are they so painful? And, most importantly, how do we get rid of them? Here are things you need to know.
An ingrown toenail, also known as onychocryptosis or unguis incarnatus, is a painful condition of the toe. It occurs when a sharp corner or edge of the toenail digs into the skin at the end of or side of the toe. Symptoms include pain, redness, swelling and, sometimes, an infection on the affected site. Ingrown toenails usually affect your big toe. The condition is common in adults and adolescents but less common in children and infants. Ingrown toenails are also more common in men than in women.
Ingrown toenails can be tricky to treat because they can easily become infected and are often a recurring problem. The inflamed area can eventually begin to grow extra tissue or drain yellowish fluid and, if still left untreated, can progress to an infection or even an abscess that could require surgical treatment.
If, however, the ingrown toenail is not infected, you can try some at-home remedies to keep the pain at bay and prevent the ingrown toenail from coming back. Here are some ways:
- Allow your sore toe to soak in a warm salt water bath for 15 minutes three times a day. This soak can help relieve pain and swelling in an ingrown toenail. Remember to dry your foot completely afterwards.
- Always keep your foot dry except when soaking. Moisture promotes infection.
- Take an over-the-counter pain-relieving medication, like acetaminophen or ibuprofen.
- Gently pull the skin away from the nail using a small nail file
- Stuff tiny pieces of clean, moist cotton between the ingrown toenail and the skin to help separate them and provide a little cushioning to the skin.
- Apply an antibiotic ointment on the affected toe at least once a day to help reduce the chance of developing an infection.
- Choose to wear footwear that are easy on your toes like sandals or those made of soft fabrics. Avoid shoes that pinch the toes or those that place pressure on the ingrown toenail.
- Inspect your toe regularly for signs of infection like redness, increased pain, swelling, and drainage of pus.
If all else fails and you still experience severe discomfort in your toe or you notice pus or redness that seems to be spreading, see a doctor immediately. Also, if you have diabetes, it is better to consult with your physician first before doing these measures.