Pesky Problems Understand ingrown nails and how to be rid of them for good!

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Ingrown toenail play

Ingrown toenail

(health.howstuffworks)

Nobody likes ingrown toenails, and when you get one, your instinct may be to clip off the offending bit.

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Nobody likes ingrown toenails, and when you get one, your instinct may be to clip off the offending bit.

Yeah, we know its annoying and frustrating, as hell, not to talk of painful.

A new research shows that might be exactly the wrong thing to do, because no matter how annoying it is, it won't necessarily stop the toenail from growing in again.

In a new study, physicists Cyril Rauch and Mohammed Cherkaoui-Rbati, of the University of Nottingham in England, looked closely at the mechanical forces that act on fingernails and toenails, including the outward growth of the nail and the tension of its attachment to the nail bed.

Nails are made of protein keratin, just as hair is, and are attached to the nail bed with structures that are microscopic yet quite strong.

It's painful to break this attachment, as anyone who has broken a fingernail would know.

The researchers discovered that ingrown toenails result from an imbalance in the forces acting on them.

Normally, nail growth imparts a force on the nail, pushing it outward toward the tip of the finger and that works against the adhesive force holding the nail down to the nail bed.

All the same, if a nail grows too quickly, the balance between these forces changes.

The additional force from the growth "pulls" on the nail bed, and in response to that pull, the nail edge becomes more curved.

In addition, the shape of the nail plays a role in making it ingrown.

Due to the fact that fingernails are naturally curved, the outer edges are shorter than the center.

This means the rates of growth in the different parts of the nail are slightly different, meaning the center grows a bit slower than the edges do.

"The distal part, (that's the separation between the white and pink part), has a curved shape that's creating the stresses," Rauch told Live Science.

Eventually, this stress causes the far edge of the nail to poke down into the skin alongside the nail, leading to an ingrown nail, the researchers found.

The medical name for the condition is onychocryptosis.

These forces are also the reason that the big toe seems especially prone to ingrown nails, Rauch said. "This curvature (on the edge of the big toenail) is very flat.

By being flattened, these nails will generate stress in the transverse direction," he said.

In other words, because the edge of this toenail tends to be straighter, the rate of growth in a big toe needed to push the edge of the nail into the skin doesn't need to change as much as it does for other nails.

Sniping away at ingrown nails is a bad idea because cutting doesn't always rebalance the forces acting on the nail.

When you cut off the end of the nail, depending on the shape of the cut, you change the nail's shape.

The faster and slower growing parts of the nail will keep growing at the same rates, so the change in the shape might get the nail to grow correctly or it might not.

The best option seems to be to cut the nail in a parabolic shape, such as an oval, or to cut the edge so that it is slightly curved, rather than straight across at the end of the nail, the researchers said.

This method seems to cause the force on one part of the nail and bed to balance the forces from the other parts, they added.

Rauch noted that pregnant women and children tend to get ingrown toenails more often than other groups of people.

This may be because there's generally more growth happening in the nails for both of those groups, he said.

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