In-growing toenails (onychocryptosis) are a common condition affecting around 1 in 20 people with the big toe being the most prevalent location. In-growing toenails are characterized by the nail edge cutting into the skin (paronychium) at either edge of the nail. The cause of ingrown toenails is vast; however, two common causes include improperly cutting the toenails and tight-fitting shoes. Other causes include deformities of the big toe such as bunions, having the second toe longer than the first toe, fungal nail infections and abnormally shaped nail plate or nail bed. Other less common causes include using
certain medications such as retinoids (usually for acne).
In-growing toenails tend to become quite painful and can result in an infection of the surrounding skin (acute paronychia). In the longer term due to continued damage severe breakdown of the surrounding skin can occur (chronic paronychia) with repeated cases of acute infections. In severe but rare cases the bone can also become infected.
After making sure that your shoes are not too (stand on the liners to check where the toes finish), there are some simple treatments that you can do.
For mild to moderate in-growing toenails treatment usually consists of bathing the toe in warm salt water (table salt works well) for 10 to 20min per day. This is to prevent or reduce the severity of any infection. To stop the nail edge from digging into the skin, taping the toe so that the tape pulls the skin away from the nail edge can also be effective at relieving pressure. After trialling the above for 7 days, if symptoms persist, it is best to see a podiatrist for other treatment options.