How to Treat an Ingrown Toenail

female finger pointing at toenailWhat Are Ingrown Toenails?

Ingrown toenails are toenails where the corner or side of the nail has grown into soft flesh. In many cases, the nail and the surrounding skin are otherwise healthy. However, people who suffer from diabetes and other conditions affecting blood circulation in the feet may be at greater risk.

Ingrown toenails are most common on the big toe of either foot. However, any toenail can become ingrown as a result of trauma and other factors. It’s important to address the condition right away to prevent serious complications from developing.

Symptoms of Ingrown Toenails

An ingrown toenail produces pain and tenderness in the foot around the affected nail. The pain may present on one side of the nail or both. Redness and swelling around the toenail can usually be observed, although it is not always widespread.

In serious cases, the cutting of soft skin around the nail may leave the area open to infection. If an infection takes root, the pain will become much more severe. Redness may spread beyond the nail area. Any form of discharge (i.e. pus) around the area means you should seek medical help.

Treatment Options for Ingrown Toenails

A podiatrist can help you with ingrown toenail treatment. While it may be possible to remove an ingrown toenail at home by gradually bending the edge upward and then cutting it away, this can lead to a number of complications. Unless the nail has been softened first, the process often produces significant pain. Likewise, many patients cut the nail in such a way that future recurrence is likely.

Without appropriate care, ingrown toenail patients are at significant risk of damaging the nail and causing it to grow inward frequently.

A podiatrist can assist you in removing the nail in a healthy and safe way that makes future issues less likely. They can also provide you with appropriate pain medication, self-care advice, and evaluation of any infection risk.

If you are experiencing pain from an ingrown toenail – such as pain that occurs when you step down on your foot – it’s essential to get care early in the condition. Ingrown toenails will tend to hurt more over time. An infection can produce life-threatening complications.

How to Avoid Ingrown Toenails

These techniques can reduce the odds of ingrown toenails:

Always Trim Toenails Straight Across

Curved nails are much more likely than straight nails to become ingrown. Nails should never be curved to match the front portion of your shoe. If you have your nails cared for by a professional, be sure your pedicurist only cuts them straight across.

Maintain Toenails at Moderate Length

Toenails should be even with the tips of your shoes. Nails that become too long may be malformed by pressing against your shoe as you walk. On the other hand, nails that are too short, can be driven into tissue by trauma.

Wear Shoes That Are Comfortable

If your shoes aren’t right, your feet will let you know. Shoes that pinch the toes may cause nails to grow inward all by themselves. Be very cautious of high heels. Don’t be tempted to think foot pain that subsides within a short time is nothing to worry about.

Use Protective Footwear as Necessary

Any short, sharp blow to the feet – such as stubbing the toe – can influence the growth pattern of the toenail. With that in mind, always use appropriate shoes for any risky situation. For example, wear steel-toed boots on work sites and athletic shoes while playing sports.

To learn more or get help, contact Northeastern Foot and Ankle.