April 2018 Podiatry Newsletter

April 2018 Podiatry Newsletter

Ingrown Nails and Hangnails

Problems with nails and the surrounding skin aren’t always just a cosmetic issue; they can indicate or pose a threat to a person’s health, as well. Ingrown nails and hangnails are two issues which are particularly common and deserve to be taken seriously. If left untreated, they can become painful and lead to infection, particularly in people with diabetes.

Causes of Ingrown Nails

Ingrown nails are those whose edges have grown into the surrounding skin. While this is something that could happen on any finger or toe, it affects the big toenails the most frequently. This is most likely due to their size; narrow shoes push the toes together and deprive the big toenail of enough room to grow normally. It could also occur because the patient trimmed the sides of the nail. Doing this forces the sides to grow out again and makes it likelier that they will push under the surrounding skin. Podiatrists recommend that toenails only be cut straight across for this reason.

Solutions to Ingrown Nails

If an infection hasn’t developed yet, doctors often treat ingrown toenails by lifting them and inserting a thin strip of material to keep them away from the skin. The patient will have to frequently wash their feet and replace the material until the risk of ingrowth has been eliminated. Sometimes it is necessary to cut the nail deeply, in which case the patient’s toe may be numbed. In the worst cases, such as those resulting from deformity or injury, the nail may be removed and chemically treated to prevent a portion of it from growing back. This usually happens in cases of chronic infection, which would also require the patient to take antibiotics.


Hangnails are torn bits of skin near the nail. They often result in inflammation near the tips of fingers and toes, which are sensitive areas, and can further lead to infection. A sign of the latter would be if they smell bad or leak pus, in which case the patient should apply antibiotic cream. More severe cases require oral antibiotics.

Hangnails need to be cut off, preferably with straight cuticle clippers. They should not be torn, or else healthy tissue may be damaged and an infection might spread. Patients should consult a doctor if a hangnail is still painful a week after self-treatment or if the nearby nail’s appearance becomes strange. Hangnails are likelier to develop when a person has dry skin, so patients should keep their feet moisturized but not perpetually damp.


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