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Health Topics
Ingrown Toenail and Folliculitis

Ingrown Toenail is a condition where a side of the nail presses into the skin of the toe. The condition becomes worse as the nail grows and causes inflammation and sometimes becomes infected.

In many cases a spur of the toenail grows down and presses so hard into the tissue surrounding the nail that the skin becomes broken. The tissue starts to become red with swelling and is very painful. Every step causes movement in the area of the ingrown toenail causing more penetration into the tissue. Wearing shoes which push the toes together can increase the pain of an Ingrown Toenail. There is relief when the shoes are removed but the condition is still there and needs treatment.

Toenails should be cut frequently and straight across the top. The nail should not be shaped by cutting or filing down the side of the toe as this might encourage the nail to start growing into the skin on the sides of the toe. It is advisable to visit a Chiropodist if you have trouble with your nails and suffer from Ingrown Toenails. Some older people may have very tough nails which are difficult to manicure properly. Soaking the feet in a warm bath with Epsom Salts or some other bath salts may help to soften the nail. In most cases this makes manicuring a lot easier.

It may be necessary to consult a Doctor. The part of the nail which is growing into the surrounding tissue must be removed. If the wound is infected it must be thoroughly cleaned with an anti-bacterial wash. In serious cases antibiotics might be prescribed.
The Staff at the Pharmacy will be happy to recommend a suitable antibacterial wash to use at the site of an Ingrown Toenail wound. Epsom salts for soaking the feet are also available at the Pharmacy. It is important to have a suitable pair of toenail clippers. Ordinary nail clippers are not usually adequate. If you suffer from diabetes your feet should be examined regularly for injuries and damage. Diabetes affects the small arteries and nerves in the feet so a minor problem could develop into a serious condition if not treated properly.

Folliculitis is a bacterial infection and irritation of the hair follicles. Hair grows out of a hair follicle which is continually producing new hair and pushing it out until it appears above the skin. The strength, thickness and growth rate of the hair determine its length. Scalp hair, for example, is thicker, stronger and longer than pubic hair. Folliculitis tends to occur in areas where hair can be easily irritated or damaged, such as the neck, upper lip and groin. It is usually caused by Staphylococcal aureus bacteria.

The condition is more common in people with diabetes and people with oily skin and poor personal hygiene are also at risk. Skin areas which are exposed to tar, grease, mineral oil, adhesive plaster and plastic dressings are most susceptible to Folliculitis. The condition usually appears as a pus-filled blister, sometimes still containing a hair, on the surface of the skin. It is usually surrounded by an area of red skin and is sore, tender and sometimes itchy. The blister usually lasts for a number of days. Infected hairs can be easily removed but new blisters tend to develop. 

The Doctor should be consulted in cases of Follicultis. An antibiotic cream or ointment may be prescribed and in severe cases the Doctor might prescribe oral antibiotics. The condition should be treated promptly so as to prevent the development of a chronic infection. Personal hygiene is very important and the Staff at the Pharmacy will be happy to recommend an antiseptic liquid soap. Keeping hands and nails clean is very important. Daily moisturising is advisable. Tea tree oil may also be helpful. It’s a natural antiseptic with antibacterial properties. It has been proven that it helps to destroy the Staphylococcus aureus bacteria which causes Folliculitis.


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Kevin McCormack B.Sc. Pharm. MPSI