At first, an ingrown toenail doesn’t seem like much to worry about. A little pain. A little redness. A little swelling. But left untreated, ingrown toenails can lead to more serious problems. That’s why you should never — we repeat, NEVER — ignore an ingrown toenail.
What’s an ingrown toenail?
When the edges of your toenail grow into the soft, surrounding skin, it’s called an ingrown toenail. You usually get ingrown toenails on your big toe, but any toenail can become ingrown.
Ingrown toenails result from:
- Incorrect toenail cutting
- Irregular and thick toenails
- Genetic predisposition
- Shoes and socks at are too tight
- Toenail trauma and injury
- Wet feet
- Bad posture
Older people whose toenails thicken are prone to ingrown toenails; so are teens with sweaty feet.
Typically, ingrown toenails cause toe pain, redness, and swelling. But sometimes the toe becomes infected. Then trouble follows.
Ingrown toenail complications
If you ignore the early stages of an ingrown toenail, you could end up with:
- A bone infection
- Open sores
- Foot ulcers
- Oozing pus
- Compromised circulation to the affected area
Ultimately, tissue can decay and die. People with diabetes, who already have poor foot circulation and nerve insensitivity, are particularly vulnerable to ingrown toenail complications.
What to do about ingrown toenails
Act quickly. At the first sign of pain or redness, soak your feet in warm water for 15-20 minutes a few times a day. Push the skin away from the toenail edges with an olive oil-soaked cotton ball, and apply a topical antibiotic.
If your toe gets worse, you suspect an infection, or you’re a diabetic, seek medical attention ASAP.
Your Family Foot & Ankle Clinic doctor has several options for treating an infected ingrown toenail. They may put a splint under the nail to lift it and encourage the nail to grow away from soft skin. If that doesn’t work, they can remove part of the nail or the entire thing.
If a pus-filled blister has developed, your doctor will drain it.
Here’s the ounce of prevention
These measures can prevent toenails from becoming ingrown:
- Protect your feet from injury.
- Wear proper fitting shoes that don’t pinch or put pressure on your toes.
- Cut your toenails so they’re even with the tips of your toes.
- Consider surgery if your toenails are abnormally curved or thick.
- If you’re a diabetic, check your toes and feet daily for problems.
If an ingrown toenail is causing you pain and problems, call us at Family Foot & Ankle Clinic.