Ingrown Toenails

Like many painful foot conditions, ingrown toenails start out as just a small nuisance. There might be a little tenderness when you put on your shoes, or minor pain here and there.

However, as the nail continues to grow into the soft surrounding skin, your discomfort will also grow! In the most severe cases, untreated ingrown toenails can get infected—which can be especially deadly for people with diabetes or poor circulation. They may inhibit your ability to enjoy active hobbies, sports, or even daily activities comfortably.

Fortunately, if you catch your ingrown toenail early, you may be able to keep it from getting worse and slowly recover at home. And if you do need professional care, we can fix your ingrown toenail and send you home pain-free in just one brief appointment.

What Are the Symptoms of Ingrown Toenails?

How will you know if your toenail is ingrown? The telltale signs include:

  • Pain and tenderness, particularly when you put pressure on the side of the toe. In severe cases it may be excruciating just to put on a pair of shoes!
  • Swelling
  • Redness

If the ingrown toenail breaks the skin, it creates opportunities for bacteria and other germs to enter, possibly causing an infection. If the redness appears to be spreading or you notice pus, you could have an infection. This is very serious (especially if you have diabetes) and demands immediate care from a physician.

What Causes Ingrown Toenails?

Ingrown toenails are very common and have a number of possible causes and risk factors. Some of the most frequent include:

  • Poor nail trimming. You should always cut your toenails straight across and not too short, rather than angling in the corners. Although you might like the rounder look, it increases the probability that the nail will become ingrown as it grows out.
  • Genetic factors. Everybody’s toes and toenails are a little different. Unfortunately, yours may be predisposed to developing ingrown toenails. Perhaps you were born with toenails that are naturally more curved than normal.
  • Trauma. External pressures and injuries could reroute your toenail inward rather than outward! This can include everything from wearing shoes that are too tight, to acute traumas such as stubbing your toe. Runners and athletes are at high risk of ingrown toenails for this reason.

What Causes Ingrown Toenails?

Ingrown toenails are very common and have a number of possible causes and risk factors. Some of the most frequent include:

  • Poor nail trimming. You should always cut your toenails straight across and not too short, rather than angling in the corners. Although you might like the rounder look, it increases the probability that the nail will become ingrown as it grows out.
  • Genetic factors. Everybody’s toes and toenails are a little different. Unfortunately, yours may be predisposed to developing ingrown toenails. Perhaps you were born with toenails that are naturally more curved than normal.
  • Trauma. External pressures and injuries could reroute your toenail inward rather than outward! This can include everything from wearing shoes that are too tight, to acute traumas such as stubbing your toe. Runners and athletes are at high risk of ingrown toenails for this reason.

Can I Treat My Ingrown Toenail at Home?

Sometimes, yes.

You may attempt home care if your ingrown toenail is:

  • Not causing significant discomfort
  • Shows no signs of infection
  • You do not have diabetes (or any other pre-exiting condition associated with nerve or vascular problems)

To care for an ingrown toenail at home, soak your foot in warm water a couple of times per day, while otherwise keeping it clean and dry. Wear wide or open-toed shoes to avoid putting pressure on the nail. You may take an over-the-counter anti-inflammatory for the pain if necessary.

If pain does not improve after a few days or you develop signs of an infection, discontinue home treatment and see us right away.

Professional Treatment Options

Our office provides quick and effective treatment for ingrown toenails; even severe ones. It requires only a minor surgical procedure to remove the ingrown nail border or edge, under a local anesthetic.

The appointment is quick, and you should not experience any significant discomfort. By the time the anesthesia has worn off, you should already be feeling a lot better—no more pain!

If you wish, we can also remove a part of the underlying nail bed, so that the ingrown edge of the nail can not grow back. Your nail will be thinner as a result, but it should also permanently reduce the recurrence rate to almost zero. This is a good option for people who struggle with ingrown toenails often.

Side effects are minimal and rare, and there is little-to-no downtime. You should be able to return to work, school, and regular activities right away, or at least by the next day. However, we may ask that you avoid swimming, submerging your toe, or engaging in strenuous athletic training for a few days to a few weeks after the procedure. 

Do not let an ingrown toenail keep you from enjoying your activities—and definitely don’t give it the chance to get infected! If your own home care isn’t cutting it, give us a call at (269) 373-1019. Our team will be glad to help!

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