If you’ve ever had an ingrown toenail before, then we don’t have to tell you how disruptive they can be to your overall quality of life. They may seem small, but they can cause a lot of pain—especially if they become swollen and infected.
What Is an Ingrown Toenail?
An ingrown toenail occurs when an edge, border, or corner of a nail starts to dig sideways into the soft surrounding flesh, rather than growing out like a normal toenail. This usually happens to the big toe, but can affect the other toes as well. One or both sides of the nail may become ingrown.
Common symptoms include:
- Significant tenderness, especially when touching the toe
- Difficulty wearing shoes
Ingrown toenails can, and frequently do, become infected if not treated promptly. Severe discomfort, red streaks, and buildup of pus are all pretty good signs that your toe is probably infected.
What Causes Ingrown Toenails?
Some of the possible contributing causes of this condition include:
- Genetic inheritance. Unfortunately, some people are just naturally more prone to developing ingrown nails over and over again, usually because their nails are normally very curvy.
- Improper nail trimming. Yes, there is a wrong way to cut your toenails. Avoid cutting them too short or rounding the corners too excessively.
- Bad footwear choices. If your shoes are so tight that they pinch your toes, or so loose that they slide around on your feet, your toenails may be the unfortunate victims.
- Accidental injury. Both sudden traumas (like dropping a jar of salsa on your toe) or repetitive impacts (like kicking a soccer ball over and over) can lead to ingrown toenails.
Do I Need to See a Podiatrist for My Ingrown Toenails?
Some people are able to deal with minor ingrown toenails at home by switching to open-toed shoes, soaking their feet regularly, and gently lifting the nail with a piece of clean, unused dental floss after soaking.
Honestly, though, we tend to discourage this kind of home management. Success rates for home therapies are, at best, moderately successful. In most cases, you’ll just be subjecting yourself to more pain over a longer period of time, and you could end up with an infection. In our opinion, it’s better to just have a podiatrist take care of it.
You should see a podiatrist right away if:
- Your ingrown toenail is causing you significant discomfort
- You notice any signs of infection
- You have diabetes, poor circulation, or any other condition that could compromise your body’s ability to heal or deal with infection
- Your ingrown toenail hasn’t improved after a few days of home care
- Ingrown toenails are a recurring problem in your life
How We Can Help
Removing an ingrown toenail is a relatively quick and simple procedure. We’ll put the toe under a local anesthetic, so you don’t feel anything, then gently either trim back or cut out and remove whatever nail border happens to be giving you grief.
If you have had multiple ingrown toenails in the past, it’s best to also remove the associated portion of the nail matrix as well. In simple terms, that means the portion of nail that keeps getting ingrown can’t grow back. Your nail will be a little thinner, but you’ll be a lot happier!
After the procedure, there may be some residual soreness, and we’ll give you instructions for how to soak your toe at home for a few days to a few weeks afterward.
But despite these minor aftercare responsibilities, most people are able to return to their normal activities (such as work, school, and most hobbies) within a day of the procedure, or even the same day. Your pain should be greatly reduced almost immediately and continue to improve over the following days.
We’d say that sounds better than days to weeks of worsening pain and a potential infection.
If you tend to agree, give Cheyenne Foot & Ankle a call today! You can reach our Colorado Springs office at (719) 576-2080, or complete our online contact form to have a member of our office contact you during normal business hours.