Ingrown Toenail (cont.)

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How do physicians diagnose an ingrown toenail?

The diagnosis of an ingrown toenail is typically straightforward. However, the signs and symptoms of ingrown toenails can vary quite dramatically, particularly if an infection develops. There may simply be some tenderness at the nail border when pressure is applied. There is typically an incurvation of the nail or a spike of nail (spicule) pressing into the skin of the nail border. Associated redness and swelling localized to the nail also suggest the diagnosis of an ingrown toenail. When an infection is involved, there may be severe redness and swelling, drainage, pus, and malodor.

Making the proper diagnosis requires taking into account the medical history and all possible causative factors. If you are unsure, seek professional help. Some conditions such as tumors, foreign bodies, trauma, and fungal infection may appear to be an ingrown toenail to the untrained eye.

What are possible complications of ingrown toenails?

An unresolving ingrown toenail can have serious consequences. A localized infection of the nail border (paronychia) can progress to a deeper soft-tissue infection (cellulitis) which can in turn progress to a bone infection (osteomyelitis). Complications can include scarring of the surrounding skin and nail borders as well as thickened, deformed (onychodystrophy) fungal toenails (onychomycosis).

How do people treat an ingrown toenail at home?

The following home-care treatments may provide temporary relief.

  • Lukewarm water foot soaks for 15 to 20 minutes with any one of the following options can be helpful: one part white vinegar to four parts water; 2 tablespoons Epsom salts per quart of water; or a dilute Clorox type bleach with 1/3 teaspoon of Clorox in 1 gallon of water.
  • Elevate the foot and leg.
  • Take oral anti-inflammatory drugs.
  • Trim the toenail straight across the top without digging into the corners or leaving them too short.
  • Carefully rolling back be overgrown skin at the affected nail border may allow one to slip a small piece of cotton or dental floss to lift the offending edge of the nail up from the skin.

If symptoms persist, medical treatment from a podiatrist is recommended.

Medically Reviewed by a Doctor on 4/14/2014

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