An ingrown toenail is a very common foot problem. One of its first signs is the inflammation of the surrounding skin but could quickly deteriorate into a more serious situation if an infection sets in.
An ingrown toenail refers to a situation of the toenail where the nail curves inward to exert pressure on the adjacent skin or nail bed so much that it ends up being embedded in it. This embedment of the toenail in the surrounding skin results in the inflammation, hardness, and tenderness of the surrounding skin. Skin redness, bleeding, as well as pus are symptoms of an infected ingrown toenail.
It is imperative to treat an ingrown toenail as early as possible to ensure an infection does not set in. This way, it can be easily managed at home. In critical cases, partial or total removal of the toenail may be inevitable. There are nail tools and treatments used in the treatment of an ingrown toenail, both home, and surgical treatments. Before looking at the tools, let’s look briefly into some of the risk factors of an ingrown toenail.
Risk factors of an ingrown toenail
· Ill-fitted footwear: tight shoes and socks will cramp the toes together hence pushing the nail against the surrounding skin which if continued long enough will ultimately cause the nail to grow into the skin.
· Wrong nail cutting style: curving the nail or cutting it too short will both encourage the nail to curve inward rather than it growing straight.
· Injury: dropping a heavy object on the toes or hitting the toes against a hard object are leading injuries suffered by the toenail. These injuries could force the nail into awkward positions such as curving into the surrounding skin or nail bed.
· Congenital abnormalities: small nail bed and awkwardly shaped toenails are some of the congenital causes of an ingrown toenail.
· Poor posture: sitting, standing, or walking in ways that position the toenails awkwardly against the surrounding skin will encourage the nails to grow into the skin.
Other risk factors include underlying health issues and genetic predisposition.
Ingrown Toenail Tools
The tools used in the correction and treatment of an ingrown toenail include the following:
Toenail clipper is used to trim the curved toenail, especially the visible part. This must be done carefully and you should not cut into the skin. Cutting the visible edges of the toenail helps to reduce the pressure and pain. Before clipping the toenail, soak it in a mixture of warm water and salt for about 25 minutes. This will help to soften the nail and the surrounding skin. Softening the nail and surrounding skin is always the first step when treating toenail fungus.
Files are used to scrape off more nail and dead skin cells.
Cuticle sticks are used to redirect a toenail particularly if it has not grown into the surrounding skin.
Cotton is used to gently push the adjacent skin of the nail away and to gently lift the toenail.
Dental floss is placed beneath the toenail after gently lifting it to ensure it grows upward and straight.
Tweezers are used to push a piece of cotton beneath the ingrown toenail hence pushing the nail away from the skin.
Toenail braces are designed to correct ingrown toenails especially those caused by an abnormal growth of the nail. They are primarily made for the big toe but can be very well adapted to treat other toenails as well as fingernails.
Toe braces work like a spring; they gently pull the nail away from the adjacent skin so that the nail can grow off the skin.
One of the latest and effective ways of treating an ingrown toenail is the use of a laser or chemical procedure to permanently get rid of a part of the nail bed.
Disinfection of ingrown toenail tools
All toenail tools must be properly disinfected to ensure you do not introduce infection into the ingrown toenail by yourself. Alcohol and hydrogen peroxide are very effective disinfectants.
Note: maintaining proper foot and nail care is fundamental to the prevention and treatment of an ingrown toenail. Eat diets and do things that strengthen the toenails. Desist from risk factors such as ill-fitting shoes, excessive cutting of the nail, and exposure to injury.
If an ingrown toenail is not treated promptly, serious consequences may follow. Treatment should be resumed even before an infection sets in. All the tools discussed above play key roles in the successful treatment of an ingrown toenail.