When Should You Get Help for an Ingrown Toenail?
Many ingrown toenails tend to be mild and can be treated at home, if you prefer. However, there are times when it is always best to seek professional treatment instead:
- If you suspect your ingrown toenail is infected. Signs can include severe pain, discharge of pus, greater warmth to the touch, and red streaks radiating from the area.
- If you have diabetes or poor circulation. If you have any condition where even a minor injury can lead to big complications, it’s best to leave ingrown toenail care to us.
- If your ingrown toenail is simply too painful to address on your own. We can treat it in a much less painful way.
- If your ingrown toenail does not improve after a day or two of home care. It’s likely that a different approach will be necessary.
- If you keep getting ingrown toenails again and again. That is not normal, and often a sign that something needs to change.
But once again, you don’t necessarily need any of the above reasons to reach out to us for help. You don’t have to wait for a case to get “bad enough” to contact us.
What Causes Ingrown Toenails?
When the edge of your toenail grows into the surrounding tissue, one or more of the following causes is typically to blame:
- Poorly fitting footwear. Shoes that crowd the toes and exert excess pressure on the foot are likely to increase the risk of an ingrown toenail.
- Trimming nails improperly. Cutting your toenails too short or rounding them off too much at the edges can cause the nail to grow back improperly.
- Physical trauma. Damage to the nail and/or nail bed, often from sudden impacts to the toe or black toenails from the repetitive impacts of running, can also cause a nail to grow back incorrectly.
If none of the above causes are in play, it may be the case that you were born with nails that naturally grow more curved and are more likely to become ingrown. It’s a tendency that can run in families.
How Do You Treat Ingrown Toenails?
If your ingrown toenail is mild and none of the above reasons to call us immediately apply, then home treatment may be an effective option.
- Soak your foot for 15-20 minutes in warm water to soften the nail tissue, relieve tenderness, and reduce swelling.
- Gently pat the foot dry, then apply antibiotic cream or ointment.
- Bandage the affected toe for protection.
- Remain out of tight shoes as long as possible while your toe heals. Going barefoot or wearing open-toed shoes are good options, whenever reasonable.
Remember, if your toe is not showing improvement after a day or two of home treatment, it’s time to see us.
In some cases, we can provide better results by professionally lifting the nail away from the skin.
In other cases, we may partially or fully remove the nail with a simple in-office procedure. A local anesthetic is administered to numb the area before we do so.
For nails that continue to come back ingrown no matter what changes are made to shoes or nail clipping, we might recommend a permanent removal of the nail, using a special treatment to keep it from growing back.
After a removal, we will bandage your toe with antibacterial ointment and gauze. It will be important to follow our instructions for best recovery, and you may want someone with you who can drive you home.
While we understand that some patients may be hesitant to receive ingrown toenail treatment for fear of pain, remember that we have the tools to make treatment much more comfortable – and relief after ingrown toenail treatment tends to be near instantaneous once the source of irritation is removed!