Nail Care: Its Role in Podiatry

ingrown nailNail care is a very important part of podiatric medicine and surgery.  There are ten nails on the average human foot, each of which can cause problems.  Common conditions seen include ingrown nails, thick nails, long nails, fungal nails.  Ingrown nails can lacerate the skin and cause skin and bone infections.  Thick nails can cause ulcerations or sores of the nail bed.  Long nails can lacerate the skin of adjacent toes or can pull off and cause an open wound or blood blister of the nail bed.  Fungal nails can develop into an athlete’s foot infection.

Podiatrists treat the above and other conditions by medical and surgical means.  Debridement, or reduction, of nails in patients who cannot do so themselves because of physical or cognitive limitations is important.  Also, having conditions such as diabetes, peripheral vascular disease or peripheral neuropathy can cause problems if one injures themselves while trying to take care of one’s own nails.  By having a podiatrist perform these medical and surgical services for at-risk populations, complications can be avoided.  Additionally, surgical removal of a part of the nail or the whole nail by a podiatrist may be necessary for some conditions such as ingrown nails or infections due to thick or fungal toenails.

Though the treatment of nail pathology is an important part of the practice of podiatric medicine and surgery, it by no means represents the entire scope of practice of the profession.  It is merely one component of our diverse practice.  Podiatric physicians and surgeons are comprehensive doctors of medical, biomechanical and surgical care for the foot and ankle.  This type of treatment should also not be confused with a cosmetic treatment such as a pedicure.  Our goal is to improve function and avoid or treat disease.

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