An ingrown toenail is one of the more common foot conditions we face. You are incredibly lucky if you’ve never had one—or just didn’t realize you had one at the time. Even babies can get ingrown toenails!
When the edge or corner of a toenail starts to dig into the surrounding skin, it’s usually more than a little nuisance. It may hurt some and look a little red and swollen, but can often be cared for at home.
However, there are more severe or recurring cases when you will want professional care. We help many patients when this is the case, and we will be happy to help you as well!
When should I see a podiatrist about an ingrown toenail?
If an ingrown toenail is minor, you can often take care of it at home by soaking your foot in warm water three to four times per day, and applying a small bit of cotton or floss beneath the ingrown nail to help guide it away from the skin.
(What you should never do is start hacking into yourself to dig out an ingrown nail. You might not only cause yourself more pain than you need, but risk infection as well!)
Sometimes, however, an ingrown toenail requires the special attention of a podiatrist. Be sure to call us if:
- Your ingrown toenail is especially painful.
- You see signs of infection in your toe, which may include pus, redness that is spreading outward from the site of the ingrown nail, and increased warmth in the area.
- You have diabetes, poor circulation, or an immunity deficiency that may increase your chances of sores and infections.
- You consistently suffer from ingrown toenails, even after making some changes to try and prevent them from coming back.
In case of a potential infection, an ingrown toenail should have prompt attention to prevent further complications. The same is true if you have diabetes. Even if you do not see any current signs of infection or problems, the effects of diabetes can make complications more likely.
How do we treat ingrown toenails?
The way we address an ingrown toenail will depend on how severe the case is and how often it has come back.
In less severe cases, we may gently lift the nail and place a splint beneath it, helping to relieve pain and separate the nail from the skin. You will need to follow up at home with foot soaking and replacing the material.
In more severe cases, we may trim or partially remove part of the nail in a sterile environment. This can allow more relief and a better opportunity for the area to heal.
In cases when the nail just continues to become ingrown, we may both remove the nail and treat the underlying nailbed to prevent nail tissue from growing back, effectively eliminating the problem for good.
How can I prevent ingrown toenails?
Ingrown toenails can have a few potential causes. Addressing them can help prevent cases from happening.
- Trim your toenails properly. Cutting your nails too short and too curved can encourage growth into the skin. Make sure to leave some white at the front of the nail and trim your nail relatively straight across.
- Wear proper shoes. Shoes that have too small or narrow of a toe box can crowd the toes together, curving nails downward. Try shoes with a roomier toe area.
- Protect your toes when necessary. Injuries to the toes can increase the chances of ingrown toenails. If you’re working in a field that involves moving heavy items or other hazards to your toes, make sure you wear protective footwear.
For some, however, ingrown toenails are all about genetics. Curved toenails can simply run in the family, and these cases might call for a more permanent solution such as described above.
If you have a particularly troublesome ingrown toenail, or just have questions about whether yours is, don’t hesitate to give us a call at (609) 714-0052. Our Medford office is always happy to hear from new and returning patients alike!