Ingrown toenails occur when the toenail begins to press into the delicate skin along the side of the nail bed, resulting in pain, irritation, and inflammation. They're most common among people who wear shoes that are too tight in the toe area or in people with specific foot shapes or thick, curved toenails. When an ingrown toenail isn't promptly and properly treated, it can cause a painful infection that can quickly spread to the rest of the toe, sometimes resulting in a need for amputation. People with diabetes and other diseases that affect the nerves or the circulatory system are at a greater risk of developing these infections since the healing process may be hindered and nerve issues can make the pain of an ingrown nail more difficult to notice, allowing the infection to progress.
Podiatrists treat ingrown toenails by carefully trimming the nail away from the side of the nail bed where it has begun pressing into the skin. In some cases, a portion of the nail or the entire nail may need to be removed during a simple in-office procedure that can be performed using a local anesthetic to prevent pain. Once the nail is removed, a special chemical can be applied to the side of the nail bed to prevent the nail from regrowing in that area. When an infection is present, antibiotics will be prescribed to kill the germs and maintain the health of the toe.
The best way to prevent serious complications from an ingrown toenail is to see a podiatrist at the first sign of tenderness or redness. People with diabetes or other nerve or circulation diseases or disorders should perform regular foot checkups to look for signs of ingrown toenails so they can avoid dangerous infections and reduce the risk of amputation. It's also important to trim toenails straight across rather than in a curve and to wear shoes that offer plenty of room in the toe area.
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