Ingrown toenails

Ingrown toenails: very painful, and may cause infection

An ingrown toenail is when the nail grows into the skin, usually at the sides of the nail. This irritates the skin, often creating pain, redness, swelling, and warmth in the toe. If an ingrown nail causes a break in the skin, bacteria may enter and cause an infection, which can lead to pus draining from the area.

Can I treat an ingrown toenail myself?

Home treatment is strongly discouraged if you suspect you have an infection, or if you have a medical condition that puts your feet at high risk such as diabetes, peripheral neuropathy, or poor circulation.

What contributes to an ingrown toenail?

  • Cutting your toenails too short encourages the skin next to the nail to fold over the nail.
  • Incorrectly fitted shoes that are tight or short.
  • Trauma, such as stubbing your toe or having an object fall on your toe.
  • Repeated pressure on the toes during activities such as kicking or running.
  • Certain other conditions may create greater risk, e.g. a toenail fungal infection or loss of a nail through trauma.

Preventing ingrown toenails

Many cases of ingrown toenails may be prevented by following these two important tips:

  • Trim your nails properly. Cut your toenails in a fairly straight line, and don’t cut them too short. You should be able to get your fingernail under the sides and end of the nail.
  • Avoid poorly fitted shoes. Don’t wear shoes that are short or tight in the toe box. Also avoid shoes that are loose, because they too cause pressure on the toes, especially when you run or walk briskly.

How does a podiatrist treat ingrown toenails?

Our podiatrist will determine the most appropriate procedure for you and explain why.

  • Painless removal of the nail spike may be possible in early cases.
  • Oral antibiotics. If an infection is present, an oral antibiotic may be prescribed on referral to your doctor.
  • Surgery – part of the nail. Surgery may involve numbing the toe and removing a corner of the nail or a larger portion of the nail. A simple procedure performed in the office, is commonly needed to ease the pain and remove the offending nail.
  • Surgery – the whole nail. This involves numbing the toe and removing the entire nail. Permanent removal prevents the recurrence of an ingrown toenail.

Following nail surgery, a light bandage will be applied. Most people experience very little pain after surgery and may resume normal activity the next day.

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