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PATIENT STORY

A 14-year-old boy presents with a history of multiple ingrown nails of both great toes. Today his right big toe is swollen and painful (Figure 200-1). He has a 2-week history of pain, redness, and swelling of the lateral nail fold of the right great toe. Soaking the toe in Epsom salts has not helped. A partial nail removal after a digital block was successful. The nail matrix was also ablated with phenol to prevent recurrence of the ingrown nail.

FIGURE 200-1

Ingrown toenail of the lateral aspect of the right great toe showing inflammation and granulation tissue. (Reproduced with permission from Richard P. Usatine, MD.)

INTRODUCTION

Onychocryptosis (ingrown toenails) is a common childhood and adult problem. Patients often seek treatment because of the significant levels of discomfort and disability associated with the condition.

SYNONYMS

Onychocryptosis, unguis incarnatus.

EPIDEMIOLOGY

The prevalence of onychocryptosis is unknown, as many patients do not seek medical care and it is not a reportable disease. The toenails, especially the great toenail, are most commonly affected. Ingrown toenails at birth and in early childhood do occur, but are very rare.

ETIOLOGY AND PATHOPHYSIOLOGY

Onychocryptosis occurs when the lateral nail plate damages the lateral nail fold. The lateral edge of the nail plate penetrates and perforates the adjacent nailfold skin. Perforation of the lateral fold skin results in painful inflammation that manifests clinically as mild edema, erythema, and pain. In advanced stages, drainage, infection, and ulceration may be present. Hypertrophy of the lateral nail wall occurs, and granulation tissue forms over the nail plate and the nailfold during healing of the ulcerated skin.1 It is a common affliction that can result from a variety of conditions that cause improper fit of the nail plate in the lateral nail groove (see Figure 200-1).

RISK FACTORS

  • Genetic predisposition1.

  • Poor-fitting footwear.

  • Excessive trimming of the lateral nail plate.

  • Pincer nail deformity (Figure 200-2).

  • Trauma.

  • Sports in which kicking or running is important.

  • Hyperhidrosis.

  • Anatomic features such as nailfold width.

  • Congenital malalignment of the digit.

  • Overcurvature of the nail plate.

  • Onychomycosis and other diseases that result in abnormal changes in the nail plate.

FIGURE 200-2

The curved infolding of the lateral edges of the nail plate indicates that this patient has a pincer nail, which predisposes to onychocryptosis. (Reproduced with permission from Richard P. Usatine, MD.)

DIAGNOSIS

CLINICAL FEATURES: HISTORY AND PHYSICAL

The diagnosis is based on clinical appearance and rarely is difficult. ...

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