Ingrown nails develop when the edges of nails grow into the surrounding skin. While people most often experience ingrown nails in their toes, this irritating condition can occur in any nail, including fingers and thumbs. While the causes for ingrown toenails and ingrown thumbnails may differ, the same course of treatment may help reduce the symptoms and prevent recurrences. According to MayoClinic.com, home treatments can help resolve and prevent some cases of ingrown nails, while other conditions may require medical treatment.
The skin around an ingrown thumbnail may appear slightly red and swollen. You may notice slight discomfort or sharp pain, especially when your thumb bumps or rubs against solid objects. As the nail continues to imbed itself deeper in the soft tissue, you may notice signs of a developing infection, including the appearance of pus.
A variety of conditions can cause your thumbnail to become ingrown. According to Dr. Thomas J. Zuber of Saginaw Cooperative Hospital, improper trimming, trauma and excessive external pressure may lead to an ingrown nail.
Left untreated, ingrown thumbnails can continue to build pressure against the surrounding skin, leading to additional swelling and pain, as well as infection. Increased pain, drainage and the appearance of pus often signal the presence of an infection in the surrounding tissue.
MayoClinic.com notes you can soak the affected nail to relieve tenderness and reduce pain. Soak your ingrown thumbnail in a bowl of warm water for about 15 minutes, three times a day. Press a small piece of cotton under the edge of your ingrown nail, gently holding the nail edge away from your inflamed skin. Apply a topical antibiotic and a bandage to your clean skin. Consult your doctor if home treatments fail to reduce the pain and swelling. Your doctor may need to remove part of your nail or treat the infection with an antibiotic.
Trim your thumbnails straight across the ends, rather than creating curved edges. Keep the length about even with the outside edge of the outer tip of your thumb. Avoid repetitive movements that create continual pressure against the edge of your thumbnail. If you experience recurrent ingrown nails your doctor may advise removing a portion of the nail or destroying part of the area from which your thumbnail grows by freezing or cauterizing a section of the nail bed.