An ingrown toenail can be uncomfortable. On the surface, it may not seem like something to be worried about, and you may think it could just go away. However, if an ingrown toenail goes untreated, it can become infected and lead to more severe conditions such as open sores or bone infections.
If you notice pain and redness around your toenail, don’t ignore it or wait for it to heal on its own. David Biss, DPM, board-certified podiatrist at Concord Podiatry in Concord and Plymouth, New Hampshire, offers a full range of podiatric services, including care for your ingrown toenails.
What is an ingrown toenail?
An ingrown toenail happens when your toenail grows into the skin of your toe. When this happens, the sides of the nail dig into your skin, causing pain. Redness can surround the nail. If an infection is present, your nail bed may become swollen and tender, making it uncomfortable to walk.
While ingrown toenails generally occur around the big toe, any nail can become ingrown.
What happens if your ingrown toenail goes untreated?
If you ignore your ingrown toenail, you can do more harm than good. It may become infected, and you may develop complications, such as:
- Draining pus
- Open sores
- Foot ulcers
- A bone infection (in very serious cases)
If you have diabetes, open sores are more common. Lack of blood flow and nerve sensitivity caused by diabetes can cause you to overlook an ingrown toenail, and this can lead to more serious complications.
Treatment for ingrown toenails
Aside from prevention measures, there are simple treatments that can cure your ingrown toenail before it gets out of hand. Depending on how severe the ingrown toenail is, you may need to avoid wearing tight shoes, soak your feet in Epsom salts dissolved in warm water, or apply ointment.
You may need a professional, medical pedicure to help cut the toenail to ensure it grows in properly over the skin rather than into it.
If surgery is needed, Dr. Biss performs this procedure in the office. A local anesthetic is used to numb the toenail to drain any abscesses and cut the nail. If the nail is too inflamed or at risk for more serious conditions, he may recommend a matricectomy — removing part of the base nail portion called the nail matrix.
Preventing ingrown toenails
There are things you can do to prevent ingrown toenails. For example, protect your feet from potential toe problems by wearing properly fitting shoes. Cut your toenails evenly, without cutting too far down your cuticle. Be sure to trim your nails straight across; do not round the edges.
Patients with diabetes should see a podiatrist regularly for routine diabetic foot care. Because diabetics are at a higher risk for more serious conditions, you should check your feet daily for blisters, sores, toenail problems, areas of increased warmth, corns, and calluses. If you notice any of these abnormalities, contact your doctor as soon as possible.
If you think you need treatment for an ingrown toenail, don’t wait. Contact Concord Podiatry for an appointment by calling the office that’s convenient to you.