Curvecorrect 2016-10-10
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ingrown toenail home treatment from CurveCorrect

What is an Ingrown Toenail

So, what is an ingrown toenail? Put simply, it's pain in the big toe (sometimes other toes) caused by the side of your toenail. An ingrown toenail is a condition in which one or both sides of the toenail curve sharply into the skin (what's called the nail groove) at the side of the nail. The free end of the toenail is not actually growing into the toe as the term "ingrown" might indicate. Toenails become more curved for a variety of reasons. Growing pressure from the side of the toenail is what causes irritation to begin. An ingrown toenail initially feels like minor discomfort and your toe may appear slightly red. But, what starts as discomfort can quickly worsen if the force of the toenail is enough to create a cut in the skin. This is then followed by inflammation and possible infection, with the cut allowing the entry of bacteria.

Ingrown toenails occur most frequently on the big toe but it can affect any toenail or even a fingernail. Usually just one side of the toenail will ingrow but occasionally both sides can become ingrown. Minor ingrown toenail cases may go away and not return once the source of the condition is corrected. Often ingrown toenails will appear and then go away repeatedly until they are treated appropriately. The condition tends to become worse the longer it goes untreated.

The severity of an ingrown toenail can be broken down into three stages.

Stage I
Inflammation Stage. Symptoms and signs are redness, swelling and discomfort next to the nail.

Stage II
Abscess Stage. The toenail cuts the skin. Pus begins to form in the area. The pain becomes more serious, as well as redness, warmth and swelling.

Stage III
Granulation Stage. Tissue will grow over the inflamed area blocking pus drainage which eventually causes chronic inflammation.

Other terms you might see used, that describe an ingrown toenail and painful nail conditions.

Onychocryptosis is the medical term for an ingrown toenail.
Unguis Incarnatus
Clinical terminology (Latin) for ingrown toenail. Translation: nail-in-flesh.
Involuted Toenail
An involuted toenail is the same as an ingrown toenail. This term is more commonly used in the UK.
Incurvated Toenail
An incurvated toenail is the same as an ingrown toenail. This term is more commonly used in Australia.
Pincer Toenail
A pincer toenail is a toenail that has developed extreme curvature. The ends of a pincer toenail appear to pinch the skin when viewed from the end.
Omega Toenail
An omega toenail is the same as a pincer nail. The toenail forms an omega (Ω) character when viewed from the end.
Trumpet Toenail
A trumpet toenail is the same as a pincer nail. The toenail appears to form a trumpet shape.
Ingrown Fingernail
An ingrown finger nail is the same as an ingrown toenail except it occurs on your finger.

Diagnosis - What are the signs of an ingrown toenail?

  • Tenderness, warmth or a throbbing discomfort on either side of your big toe
  • The skin is reddish and/or swollen on either side of your big toe
  • Pain increases when you push on the toenail
  • The toenail sometimes appears to be more curved than normal
  • The side of your toenail is not visible. You have to pull the skin away to see the side of your toenail (and it may still not be visible when you do this)
  • Bleeding, pus or drainage on the area of the toe where pain originates
  • It hurts to walk or wear shoes
  • While sleeping the weight of sheets and blankets on your toes may cause discomfort

Mild ingrown toenail

The toe is red and sensitive to pressure on the toenail.

Moderate ingrown toenail

Initially, the pain may be bearable, but if the toenail cuts into the skin, the symptoms become more serious. Aside from pain, early signs and symptoms of ingrown toenails include tenderness, redness, or swelling in the toe, especially at the nail groove. The toe may feel hot. The skin beside the nail may also become hardened, with fluid building up around the area. When pressure is applied to the nail, the pain may worsen and be very uncomfortable. It can be painful to walk or wear shoes.

Severe ingrown toenail

Later stages may involve signs and symptoms such a bleeding and overgrowth of the skin surrounding the toenail. Infection can also occur, which can show as pus oozing from the punctured skin, yellowish-colored drainage, and increased redness and bleeding.

Statistics - Who gets ingrown toenails?

Ingrown toenails are extremely widespread. You probably know a number of individuals who are affected by ingrown toenails. Many don't talk about it or maybe they're embarrassed to say they have an ingrown toenail. Approximately 10% of the United States population, 32 million Americans, has experienced an ingrown toenail at some point in their life. Approximately 5% of the population reports having chronic ingrown toenails - a condition bad enough to require a doctor visit for periodic ingrown toenail treatment or ingrown toenail surgery.

An ingrown toenail can occur at any age. Most ingrown toenail cases are purely related to foot care so the condition does not discriminate, however women experience them more frequently because of more restrictive shoes such as high heels. It's common among athletes because of the need for tight fitting footwear and the pressures exerted on the toes. The appearance of a severe ingrown toenail prevents many individuals from exposing their feet in public with open-toed shoes or sandals, the opposite of what they really should be doing to prevent an ingrown toenail.

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