An ingrown toenail is a condition in which the side of the nail grows into the soft flesh of the toe itself. This painful condition can occur on any of the metatarsals and is especially common on the big toe but can be particularly troublesome when it occurs on the pinky. Because the pinky toe is the smallest digit, it makes proper trimming of the nail difficult.
You know you have an ingrown pinky nail when you visually examine it for evidence of a nail growing into the flesh. The toe is likely to be sore, red and swollen in this area. It may also be draining fluid, a sign of infection.
An ingrown toenail occurs due to several reasons, including improper trimming in which the nail is cut too closely or is not trimmed straight across. Injury to the nail can also result in a nail growing into the fleshy part of the toe. You can also suffer from an ingrown pinky toe if you wear shoes that are too narrow. Finally, some people's nails naturally grow in a curving manner than can cause ingrowth.
Treat your ingrown nail at home by soaking your affected foot in warm water several times a day. Keep your feet dry at all other times. Wear open-toed sandals until your pinky toe heals. Apply a small amount of antibiotic cream to the affected area. According to the American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons, you might need to lift the nail slightly from the area in which it is embedded and insert a piece of waxed floss or small piece of cotton beneath in between the nail and the flesh. Change out the floss every day. Consult a physician, if your condition fails to improve after a week. A doctor may need to remove or partially remove the nail if the condition cannot be remedied by other methods, or if the infection is severe.
The best way to prevent ingrown nails is to take good care of your feet. Wear comfortable shoes that do not crowd the toes. Also, learn to trim your toenails straight across rather than rounding them. Leave your nails a little long rather than risk cutting too close. Pay particular attention to the pinky toe as it is the most difficult to trim.
Do not delay seeking professional treatment for an ingrown pinky nail if you are a diabetic or suffer from any circulation impeding ailment. MayoClinic.com warns that if an ingrown toenail is left untreated, there is the possibly of the infection spreading into the bone itself, causing a serious medical condition.