Q& A

Irish Independent - Health & Living - - ADVICE -

IMy 16-year-old son has suf­fered from in­grown toe­nails on his right foot since he was 10 or 11. I think he’s been in hos­pi­tal four times now for a pro­ce­dure. It’s ex­cru­ci­at­ingly painful and he’s in pain again now. He plays a lot of sports and it af­fects his abil­ity to run. He’s due to go in for an­other pro­ce­dure to re­move the in­grown nail in a few weeks but he’s say­ing now that he wants the whole nail re­moved. Would this be the best op­tion at this point? He says he feels crip­pled by this

prob­lem and it’s aw­ful to watch him in pain, but I’m con­cerned that some­thing as rad­i­cal as re­mov­ing the whole nail might be some­thing he’d re­gret in years to come. NGROWN toe­nails oc­cur when the edge of the nail grows down­wards into the skin sur­round­ing it. This most com­monly oc­curs on the big toes. The nail curls and pierces the skin, which may be­come in­fected, red and sore. In­grown toe­nails can oc­cur in any­one but are most com­mon in teenagers and older peo­ple.

Teenagers’ feet tend to sweat more so the skin may swell and be­come moist and soft, caus­ing it to split and al­low­ing an in­grown toe­nail to oc­cur.

In older peo­ple nails may be­come thick­ened and hard, mak­ing them more dif­fi­cult to cut and caus­ing pres­sure on the sur­round­ing skin.

Symp­toms of an in­grown toe­nail in­clude red­ness or in­flam­ma­tion along the side of the nail. There may be pain if there is pres­sure on this area of the foot. If it’s in­fected there may be pus or bleed­ing.

In more se­vere cases the skin along the side of the nail may be ob­vi­ously over­grown, cov­er­ing the side of the nail.

The main cause of in­grown toe­nails is in­cor­rect nail care. Toe­nails should be cut straight across. Try­ing to fol­low the curve of the toe or cut­ting nails too short make in­grown toe­nails more likely. Wear­ing tight fit­ting shoes or socks also puts pres­sure on the skin, push­ing it into the nails or it may cause the toe­nail to curve in­wards.

It is im­por­tant to wash and dry your feet fre­quently and change socks daily (more fre­quently if your feet sweat a lot). Poor foot hy­giene can cause skin to be­come moist and boggy and the nail may pierce it more eas­ily.

In­fec­tions such as ath­lete’s foot are also more likely with poor hy­giene and this causes moist, boggy skin too.

Other causes in­clude trauma or dam­age to the nail, and some peo­ple have nat­u­rally very curved nails.

Treat­ment de­pends on the sever­ity. If the nail is mildly in­grown, bathing it daily and ap­ply­ing some cot­ton wool

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