An ingrown nail grows in toward the skin on side of the nail bed instead of on top of it, putting excess pressure on the skin, causing pain and sometimes infection. Ingrown nails often develop as a result of ill-fitting shoes or when toenails are trimmed into a curved shape instead of being trimmed straight across. While they can occur on any toe, ingrown are most often found on the big toe. Ingrown toenails are typically very painful, with pain increasing when wearing shoes, walking, or otherwise placing pressure on the foot and the toes.
One of the most common causes of ingrown toenails is improper nail trimming. Toenails should always be cut straight across and not curved to the shape of the toe. This simple grooming rule prevents the edges of the nail from burrowing into the skin. Other common causes of ingrown toenails include wearing incorrectly fitting shoes, especially those that fit very tightly around the toe area. Men and women with thick toenails or nails that grow in a curved direction also have an increased risk of developing ingrown toenails. People with diabetes or other diseases of the circulatory system, as well as people who experience numb feet, need to be especially careful with ingrown toenails, since they can become infected without the person being aware of it.
Treatment depends on the severity of the ingrown toenail. For example, mildly ingrown nails are often treated with application of a small piece of gauze between the nail and the nail bed to encourage the nail to grow properly. If an infection is present, antibiotics may also be prescribed. However, the most common form of treatment involves injecting a numbing anesthetic into the toe and then removing the portion of the nail that has become ingrown. The procedure requires no incisions or stitches, and patients typically continue to wear their normal shoes as the area heals. While this treatment sounds extreme, it is typically very quick, often taking less than 10 minutes, including the time it takes for the local anesthetic to take effect. More severe cases may require removal of the entire nail to allow the area to heal and to help treat any existing infection.