Ingrown toenails are a painful problem that can affect people of all ages, from young children to seniors and everyone in between. In this troublesome condition, the edge or corner of at least one toenail grows where it shouldn’t, digging sideways into the skin rather than forward and outward.
Symptoms and Complications of Ingrown Toenails
In most cases of ingrown toenails, you can visibly identify the edge of the nail digging uncomfortably sideways into the skin. Other common symptoms include:
- Pain and tenderness that can range from mild to severe
- Discomfort when wearing shoes
Ingrown toenails that are not treated promptly may become infected. This represents a significant danger, especially those with diabetes, as the infection can spread to other tissues and even bone. Furthermore, ingrown toenails can often create gaps between the nail and nail bed for fungi to penetrate underneath, leading to frustrating and unsightly fungal toenail infections.
Common Causes of Ingrown Toenails
Ingrown toenails have a number of possible causes. Some of the most common include:
- An acute trauma, such as stubbing your toe or dropping a heavy object on your foot.
- Repetitive or consistent trauma, usually from wearing shoes that are too tight (especially during vigorous activity).
- Improper toenail trimming. Toenails should be cut straight across and never too short—rounding them as you would your fingernails increases your risk.
- Having unusually curved nails. Some people have a genetic predisposition to ingrown nails based on the way their nails are shaped.
Fixing Ingrown Toenails
In some cases, you can treat your ingrown toenail at home using conservative methods. However, you need to be cautious when taking this approach. You should only consider home care if the ingrown toenail is relatively mild, and you don’t have any health conditions that might compromise your circulation or immune response (such as diabetes).
Soak your feet with lukewarm water until the skin is soft, then gently lift the toenail along the ingrown corner and place a fresh piece of waxed dental floss underneath. Apply an antibiotic ointment or cream when finished. You should repeat this process 2-3 times per day, replacing with fresh floss each time.
Discontinue home treatments and seek our help immediately if you experience any of the following:
- Severe pain
- Signs of infection (swelling, redness, pus)
- The condition is worsening or does not improve with conservative care
Ingrown Toenail Removal
If your ingrown toenail is still mild when you visit our office, we may help you continue conservative treatments. However, severe, infected, or recurring ingrown toenails are best treated with a minor surgical procedure at our office. This has the advantage of being quick and painless, and often brings near-instant relief.
The procedure is straightforward. We numb your toe with a local anesthetic so you don’t feel any pain, then carefully trim away the ingrown edge of the nail. Unless your condition is severe, we typically don’t have to remove much of the nail—just a narrow slice. The toe is then drained, cleaned, and bandaged. It’ll take a few weeks to make a full recovery, but in the meantime, there usually isn’t much pain, and you shouldn’t have much (if any) downtime in terms of being able to bear weight, walk, and work.
The edge of toenail we remove will ultimately grow back under the standard procedure, but if necessary we can also remove a portion of the nail matrix responsible for growing new nail. That way, your toenail remains permanently “narrowed,” with the problematic edge never growing back. People who have recurring problems with ingrown toenails might consider this option.
Restore Your Healthy Nails
If toenails are causing you pain, let us help you fix them—before discomfort worsens or complications have the chance to develop. Please give Wilks Advanced Foot Care in Roseburg, Oregon a call today and find out what we can do for your feet. You can reach us at (541) 673-0742. Alternatively, you can leave us a message online using our contact form, and we’ll get back to you as soon as we can.