Almost everyone, at one time or another in their life, has suffered from an ingrown toenail. Often, this first occurs during adolescence, but can occur at any age. The toenail curves into the skin, causing redness, irritation and pain. Most kids don't complain until their toe is swollen, red, and dripping pus! Don't worry, Mom, they hide it until they can't stand the pain anymore. Some older kids (yes, I mean you!) do the same thing with their spouses. Don't delay ingrown toenail treatment, you don't have to live with the pain. There are answers, and they are simple, when the toenail is first aggravated, and becomes more complex the nastier the infection. In diabetics and those patients with poor circulation, an ingrown toenail can lead to a toe amputation. Seek treatment when it is a minor annoyance!

What causes ingrown toenails? Toenails can be slightly deformed due to hereditary reasons (blame Mom and Dad). It can also occur from trauma, shoe pressure and toenails that are improperly cut; usually too short Fungus in your toenails can also cause ingrown toenails and tight or pointy-toed shoes can also be to blame.

Simple tips for controlling ingrown toenail:

  1. Treatment for ingrown toenails can be as easy as reducing the pressure on the skin by trimming the toenail (with sterile instruments, not in your bathroom!) and then encouraging the skin away from the toenail as it grows.
  2. Try a shoe with more toe room or a bigger toe box.
  3. Clean the area with antibacterial soap and apply antiseptic once a day
  4. Soak your toe for 15 minutes in Epsom salt and warm water, then cut the nail straight across (do not dig in the corner) and gently massage the skin away from the nail. Remember that the old wives tale of cutting a notch in the toenail rarely works

If this doesn't work, call your podiatrist (not your pedicurist!) and make an appointment. Don't wait until the pain is so bad that you can't put your shoe on.

Surgical solutions are commonly needed because most people will delay care until the toe is significantly infected. Surgical decompression of the infection, with removal of the nail spicule, is usually needed; followed by a permanent nail ablation procedure utilizing a chemical, laser, or other technique to remove the nail root in chronic cases. Antibiotics are often prescribed and local wound care is needed to treat the surgical wound and infection after surgery.

Even in the worst cases of ingrown toenails, most people are back to activity in just a few hours or days depending on pain tolerance and the extent of the infection. Rarely is the infection so severe that hospitalization and IV antibiotics are needed to prevent toe amputation.

Bottom line: seek medical attention early in the case of ingrown toenails. Repeated nail trimming in your bathroom leads to significant deformity and infection of the nail. Call or contact the office for an appointment. Don't mess around with ingrown toenails!