copyright DMCA by Jackie D. Kimball

When your feet hurt,it's hard to walk,work, and function at your best. In fact, problems with your feet may put you on the sidelines for days or weeks. An ingrown toenail is a painful condition experienced by many.

If you have never had an ingrown toenail, then you might think that it would be just a minor annoyance. Those that have had an ingrown toenail would beg to differ. An ingrown toenail can become painful and become infected quickly, so it is important that it be properly treated without delay.

What Is An Ingrown Toenail?

An ingrown toenail (onychocryptosis) is a painful condition that occurs when the nail grows or digs into the skin, usually at the corner of the toe. The so called "big toe " is most commonly the affected toe ,but any toenail or fingernail can become ingrown.

What Are the Symptoms of An Ingrown Toenail?

The earliest symptom is usually redness and slight tenderness at the area where the nail has dug into the skin. The skin area quickly becomes more tender, inflamed, and achy. Slight or significant swelling may occur. The reddened area may feel warm and tight. The mere act of putting on a shoe may not be possible because of pain. If the swelling and redness is considerable, pus may be present. If pus occurs, the ingrown toenail is infected. You may have fever at this point, though not likely.

Mild Case of An Ingrown Toenail  flickr CC HJOE W

How Does One Care For An Ingrown Toenail?

Minor problems with ingrown nails can be treated at home , as long as the toe is carefully observed in case of worsening symptoms which indicate a probable progressing infection needing medical care.

However ,those that have circulatory problems and diabetes should seek treatment from their doctor immediately as complications can happen swiftly , and have been known to result in amputation of the toe or foot.

You can treat minor problems of an ingrown toenail with a simple method. First ,use common sense and self control! Do NOT use a needle and pick at the reddened area. Soak your foot in a pan of warm,not hot, water with a few tablespoons of Epson Salts . Grab a book or the remote and relax for about fifteen minutes. Gently pat the foot dry with a clean towel, and put the towel in the clothes hamper. Use a clean towel each time you soak your foot, which should be three times a day if at all possible. You may feel a slight pulling sensation , and this is normal.

You may find it helpful to lift the nail up to ease the pain of the nail continuing to press into the tender skin. After you have soaked your toe and patted it dry, carefully lift up the corner of the toenail and place a tiny piece of sterile cotton or a small piece of dental floss under the offending nail. You will do this each time you soak your foot.

Do not wear shoes that touch the toenail. Your best choice is to wear flip flops or sandals. What you want to do is keep the area clean and dry with no rubbing or pressure on the toenail.

Be alert for additional swelling and signs of increased redness and inflammation. If there is no improvement with soaking and keeping the area dry and clean , call your nurse to ask if you should use over the counter remedies ,or if seeing your doctor is recommended. When you call ,be sure and report that your symptoms are worsening. Report any issues such as pus, red streaks, and swelling.

What Will Happen When I Seek Medical Help?

If it is advised that you come in to see your doctor, the procedure is simple enough. This writer can attest to the fact by personal experience that after a numbing gel and shot in the toe area, you will feel very little discomfort during the treatment. The doctor will make the decision to partially or completely remove the nail and will probably follow up with an antibiotic shot and /or prescription. You may be advised to take a mild pain reliever.

How Can Ingrown Toenails Be Prevented?

A large number of ingrown toenails are caused by two major factors; poor fitting footwear and improper trimming of the toenails. Choose your footwear wisely, making sure you have a proper fit, and that the toes are not being crunched. Always choose health over appearance.

Feet should be kept clean to avoid overgrowth of certain types of bacteria and to avoid getting any possible cuts and nicks infected.When trimming your nails, cut straight across with no curving. Curved toenail trimming encourages the nail to grow into the soft skin. Some ingrown toenails are caused by an initial injury to the toenail. Never cut your toenails excessively short, and never allow the habit of pulling your toenails with your fingers instead of clean clippers. Tearing of a nail with your fingers may cause the skin to tear and quickly become very painful.

Try to avoid trauma to the toes, such as kicking with poorly protected shoes. Repetitive motions involving pressure on the toes could result in an ingrown toenail as well.

By keeping your feet clean and dry, avoiding poorly fitted footwear, and proper cutting and care of your nails, you greatly reduce your chances of suffering from ingrown toenails.

DISCLAIMER/ This article is not meant to replace medical advice and is merely a guideline to prevention and homecare in early uncomplicated issues with ingrown nails.

Article by Jackie D. Kimball copyright protected by DMCA /October 28,2010/ Photo by H. Joe. W. Flickr CC