Ingrown toenails might not seem like cause for concern, but they are one of the most common conditions we treat at Austin Foot and Ankle Specialists. Ingrown toenails can quickly transition from being a minor pain to being potentially dangerous, especially for people with diabetes or poor circulation.
Signs of Ingrown Toenails
Cutting your toenails may seem like a simple, ordinary task, but if you don’t trim them properly, you could develop a painful ingrown nail. It’s important to talk to a podiatrist if you experience any of the following symptoms:
- Tenderness and pain in the toenail or where the nail meets the skin of the toe
- Swelling or infection around the nail
- Warmth around the area of the nail
- Pus or redness that seems to be spreading—you should contact us immediately for an appointment.
Risks of Ignoring Ingrown Toenails
If you choose not to treat an ingrown toenail by seeing a podiatrist, especially if you are diabetic or have poor circulation, you may develop an infection that can spread and cause the following dangerous complications:
- Increased pain and discomfort. An ingrown toenail can cause you a great deal of pain. The longer you wait to have it treated, the greater your discomfort.
- Infection. For diabetic patients in particular, foot injuries are generally slow to heal. Infections can spread from the toe to surrounding tissue, the bone, or other body parts. The patient may develop a fever or chills as a result of the infection.
- Hospitalization. People whose feet don’t heal as readily as others may have to receive intravenous antibiotics while hospitalized to control an infection that started with a simple ingrown toenail.
- Gangrene. The tissue surrounding the toe could die as a result of restricted blood flow.
- Amputation. If the ingrown nail becomes infected and the infection becomes uncontrollable, amputation may become necessary to save your life.
Why You Should See an Austin Podiatrist
There are many reasons you should see a podiatrist instead of trying to treat an ingrown nail yourself. These include:
- Healing is faster
- Healing is safer
- Healing is usually more successful
- Healing is less likely to result in infection
- Healing is likely to be less expensive in the long run, as treating the ingrown toenail yourself can cause serious problems and require more serious treatment you might not have needed if you’d worked with a podiatrist initially.
How Our Austin Podiatrists Treat Ingrown Toenails
Generally, our podiatrists will treat an ingrown nail in one of three ways:
- By lifting the nail. If your nail is just slightly ingrown, it’s possible that we can lift the edge of the nail and pull it away from the skin. We will keep the nail separated from the skin by placing cotton or a small splint under the nail, so it won’t grow into the skin.
- By partially removing the nail. If your ingrown toenail is red and filled with pus, we may decide to remove the nail area that’s ingrown. We may use a local anesthetic to numb your toe during this procedure.
- By fully removing the nail. Some patients have a chronic problem with ingrown toenails—often on the same toe. If you have an ongoing issue with ingrown nails, we may recommend removing the nail and possibly the tissue beneath it as well.
Ingrown Toenail Prevention
While there are some people whose nails are naturally inclined to become ingrown, there are steps you can take to protect your nails, including the following:
Choose the Right Shoes
You should be able to wiggle your toes easily inside the toe box of your shoes, and there should be enough room between your longest toe and the front of your shoe that the width of your thumb could fit between them.
Trim Nails Correctly
Cutting your nails the right way can reduce your chances of developing an ingrown nail. Don’t cut your nails too short, leave them too long, or round them off. Clip them straight across to be even with the edge of the toe, using a clipper meant for toes and not fingers. Clippers should be sharp and clean so they do not crush the nail and cause damage or introduce bacteria. It is better to trim nails right after a bath or shower when they are softer. Once you have finished trimming your toenails, smooth off any rough edges with a file.
Protect Your Feet
If you regularly lift heavy items for work, be sure that you are wearing steel toe work boots or safety shoes.
See a Podiatrist Annually
An annual exam can detect potential issues before they become serious problems.
Reduce Ingrown Toenail Pain While Waiting for Your Podiatric Appointment
After scheduling an office visit with Austin Foot and Ankle Specialists for your ingrown nail, you can take steps to help with the pain while waiting for your appointment, including:
Soak Your Foot
Soak your foot in warm, soapy water with or without Epsom salts or in apple cider vinegar for 15-20 minutes, three to four times per day to reduce swelling and tenderness.
Use an Antibiotic Cream
Apply an antibiotic ointment to the area around the toenail, and cover it with a clean bandage.
Wear Open-Toed Shoes
Until you see a podiatrist at Austin Foot and Ankle Specialists, wear sandals and other open-toed shoes.
Use a Pain Reliever
An over-the-counter pain reliever such as acetaminophen or ibuprofen may help with pain.