Is your toe feeling tender or sore? When you look closely, can you see that the corner or edge of the toenail has punctured the skin and is starting to dig into the surrounding flesh? If so, it’s likely you’re dealing with an ingrown toenail.
Ingrown toenails can be extremely painful. Left untreated, they can potentially lead to more serious infections and complications. For these reasons, it’s always wise to begin treatment as early as you can.
Although mild ingrown toenails can be treated at home, professional care is quick, easy, safe, and always recommended. Furthermore, there are a few situations where you definitely want to skip home care and go straight to an expert like Dr. Victoria Melhuish at Sierra Foot & Ankle.
Symptoms and Complications
In the early stages, ingrown toenails may cause only mild pain, tenderness, swelling, and redness along one or both edges of the nail. Pressing gently on the nail may greatly increase the intensity of the symptoms.
Swelling and inflammation can interrupt a normal lifestyle, preventing you from walking, standing, or even driving comfortably. This can lead to difficulty and hindrances at work, and at play.
If the ingrown toenail becomes infected, pain and tenderness are typically much more severe. You may also notice radiating red streaks, or drainage of pus from under the nail. If left unaddressed, infection may worsen and spread, potentially even reaching the bone.
What Causes Ingrown Toenails
There are many possible reasons why you might develop an ingrown toenail.
- For many people, susceptibility to ingrown toenails is inherited. You may have naturally thick or curvy nails, which are more prone to growing inward.
- Injury to the toe can spur improper growth. Stubbing your toe on loose pavement, for instance, can put you at risk. Jamming your foot in a door is another example that can pose nail problems. Leaving the injury untreated can cause further harm down the road.
- Improper footwear is a frequent contributor. If shoes are too tight or ill-fitting, you increase your chances of the nail becoming ingrown. This is also true with tights, stockings, and socks. Just as with your shoes, you want to make sure that the fit feels good and doesn’t compress or smash your feet.
- Incorrect grooming of the nails can also contribute to the problem. Contrary to popular belief, ingrown nails are not created by neglect of personal hygiene—just a misunderstanding of proper protocol. Trimming your nails too short or filing them can result in the condition, as well as following the curve. Trimming straight across is best.
What to Do if You Suffer From Ingrown Toenails
People with diabetes, poor circulation, or related conditions are at elevated risk of severe complications and should always contact us immediately whenever they notice an ingrown toenail.
If you are not at elevated risk of infection, the pain is not severe, and there are no obvious signs of infection, you may wish to attempt home treatment. Soak your feet in warm water for about 15 minutes, up to 4 times per day, and apply antibiotic cream. Wear roomy shoes or open-toed footwear.
At-home treatments are usually sufficient in eliminating ingrown toenails. However, if yours persist, you may elect to have the nail lifted or removed in a medical office.
Depending on the severity of your condition, a procedure to remove the ingrown part of the nail—and often the corresponding part of the nail bed along with it—is often recommended. This procedure is performed under an anesthetic, is not painful, and requires minimal post-procedural downtime. Removing the nail bed has the additional benefit of keeping that part of the nail from growing back, greatly reducing your risk of future ingrown nails.
To find out more about these procedures, or if you have questions, contact Dr. Victoria Melhuish at Sierra Foot and Ankle in Carson City, Nevada. Ingrown toenails don’t have to plague your life. Call (775) 783-8037 for help today.