An ingrown toenail is a common condition that involves the corner of the toenail growing into the skin of the toe, causing pain, swelling and infection. This can occur as a result of wearing shoes that are too small or tight, cutting the toenails too short, injury to the toenail or a naturally curved toenail. While this condition can affect any toe, it most commonly affects the big toe. If left untreated, an ingrown toenail is likely to develop an infection and may even require surgery to remove the nail.
Most ingrown toenails can be treated at home by soaking the foot in warm water, applying antibiotic cream to the area and wrapping the toe in gauze or bandages. It is important to keep the area clean to help prevent infection. Your doctor may also place a piece of cotton under the nail to separate it from the skin that it is growing into, encouraging growth above the edge of the skin. For more severe or recurrent cases, part of the nail and the underlying tissue may be removed in order to remove the infection. Removal can be done through a chemical, laser or other methods.
Patients can prevent ingrown toenails by protecting the foot from trauma and by wearing comfortable, well-fitting shoes. Patients with diabetes may be at a higher risk for infection or other complications of ingrown toenails, and should take special precautions to prevent them from occurring.