When Should You See a Podiatrist for an Ingrown Toenail?

An ingrown toenail usually starts out as a minor inconvenience that may be a little tender to the touch. Without the right care, however, it can quickly become a painful problem that may make it difficult to slip into your shoes, walk without hobbling, or even take a step. Worst case, an ingrown toenail can kick off an infection that may spread to your bone.

The health care team at Family Foot and Ankle Clinic specializes in foot and ankle care and has extensive experience in keeping your toenails healthy. These skilled podiatrists are sharing a few insights about ingrown toenails and preventing the complications they can cause.

What causes ingrown toenails?

When the front edge or side of a toenail digs painfully into the soft tissue at the outer edges of your nailbed (the nail grooves), we consider the nail ingrown. Healthy toenails, on the other hand, grow straight out from the nail grooves.

An ingrown toenail is one of the most common nail issues we treat at Family Foot and Ankle Clinic, and it can develop from a number of factors, including:

  • Improperly fitting shoes that crowd or pinch your toes together
  • Trimming your toenails too short or in a curved pattern rather than straight across
  • Injuring your toenail by dropping a heavy item on your foot, during a fall, or with other trauma
  • Hereditary factors that cause your nails to curve rather than grow straight across

Ingrowing can occur on one or both sides of the nail and most often affects the big toe, but any toenail can grow inward.

What are the symptoms of an ingrown toenail?

The initial symptoms of an ingrown toenail are typically mild. You may experience a twinge of discomfort when you touch the affected nail, wiggle your toes, or squeeze into your favorite shoes.   

Signs of a worsening issue include:

  • Pain that occurs in your toe along one or both sides of the nail, even when you’re not touching the area
  • Swelling and redness of the affected toe
  • Weeping drainage, pus, and other symptoms of tissue infection around the nail

When should I see the podiatrist?

If you have diabetes or another medical condition that affects circulation in your feet, you’re more prone to developing infections that can rapidly endanger your overall health. Thus, we recommend you come in for a visit as soon as you notice even mild symptoms of an ingrown toenail.

Because diabetes and other conditions may also reduce the sensation in your feet, we recommend routine visits at Family Foot and Ankle Clinic. This allows us to monitor the health of your feet and trim your nails appropriately.

We’re also happy to provide routine toenail care if age or other problems make it difficult for you to trim your nails.

Otherwise, we suggest you make an appointment whenever an ingrown toenail causes pain, or you notice redness, swelling, or other signs of problems. Even otherwise healthy individuals can develop an infection that may quickly spread to the bone of the affected toe.

How can I prevent ingrown toenails?

There are several things you can do at home to lessen the likelihood of ingrown toenails, including:

  • Trimming your toenails regularly so that they’re even with the tips of your toes, and avoid clipping them too short or letting them grow too long
  • Clipping your toenails straight across rather curving them to follow the shape of your toe, and tell your pedicurist to do so as well
  • Wear well-fitting shoes with a roomy toe box that doesn’t crowd your toes
  • Check your feet regularly — daily if you have diabetes — for nails that are growing inward

If you have an ingrown toenail that needs attention or you desire world-class podiatry care that keeps your feet healthy and looking their best, make an appointment today at Family Foot and Ankle Clinic.

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