This blog is the next one in our series on "What to expect when you see the Podiatrist" for certain foot and ankle conditions. If you are looking to get advice on what to do for an ingrown nail this is a great source. We can give you some tips on what you can try at home and tell you when you need to see the Podiatrist.
First, let's start with explaining what an ingrown toenail is and how it evolves into a problem. Usually an ingrown toenail is a result of cutting your toenail too short. The most common area on the toenail that is effected is the sides or borders of the nail. Most people try to shape their toenails to shape it with the natural curve of the toe itself. This sometimes results in an ingrown nail. But this is not the only reason that one might develop this problem.
Other reasons one might get an ingrown nail is from trauma. We always tell patients trauma is another reason one can get an ingrown toenail. But trauma can be subjective. Wearing shoes that are too tight in the toe box is a great way to get damage to the side of the nail that can then easily become ingrown. The repetitive micro trauma of walking or running in a shoe that the toe box is too tight can easily cause an ingrown toenail to occur. Sometimes patients get ingrown toenails after dropping a heavy object on the toe causing the nail to get deformed and then they get the ingrown toenail.
When an ingrown nail first starts it can be just an irritation on the side or border of the toenail. It can gradually, or sometimes quickly evolve into a red, swollen and very tender area on the toe. Though this is a very common condition that we see in children and teenagers, adults too can suffer with an ingrown toenail. If an ingrown toenail is left untreated an infection can easily develop. We explain to patients that the nail is dead tissue digging into the healthy living tissue and the body sees the nail as a foreign body and starts to get a small infection in the area where the nail is stuck in the skin. The symptoms you will notice once there is an infection is: redness along the ingrown nail border, oozing of purulence from the infected toenail area, sometimes there will be skin that seems to be growing over part of the nail and ofcourse pain.
Home remedies may help the toenail feel better for a period of time, but they do not always cure the problem. There is no substitute for going and seeing the podiatrist for this problem. However, if you are not sure you need to go see the doctor, trying the following home remedies may help.
- Change your shoe gear to a shoe that has a wide enough toe box so that the shoe is not touching the effected toe
- You can try soaking the toe in luke warm(not hot) water 2 to 3 times a day
- Using a antibiotic cream and a band aid on the toe
- If your symptoms persist, and the above does not resolve your discomfort, get in to see your podiatrist right a way!
Many times there is a simple in office procedure that can be performed by the podiatrist. The severity of your ingrown toenail will truly dictate what is the best option for you. Some patients present with a tiny sharp toenail in the corner that can easily be trimmed and alleviate the problem. Other patients require a more involved in office procedure and sometimes oral antibiotics. The in office procedure is pretty simple and can be done within a one quick office visit.
If the toenail is requires the more involved procedure, this is what you can expect:
- The doctor will numb your toe with a local anesthetic(yes this means you will have to have a needle in your toe)
- Once the toenail is numb, the doctor will free up the toenail underneath and on top of the nail
- The offending border will then be snipped out, and any abnormal tissue on the side of the nail will be removed
- Then, in our office, we apply phenol into the area under the skin where the nail was removed
- The area is then cleansed with alcohol and a dressing is applied to the toe
- In most cases the whole nail does not need to be removed
- This procedure leaves you with a pretty normal looking nail after a period of time of healing
- You will need topical antibiotic cream
- Epsoms salts and tub or bowl to soak the toe
Typically after a procedure like this, the doctor will have you soaking the toe in luke warm water and epsoms salts 2 to 3 times a day. You will need to keep the toe covered for at least two weeks. Which means every time after your soak the toe, you will put a antibiotic cream and band aid on the toe. The doctor will have you follow up in 2 weeks, but we tell our patients that the toe may look red and a little yucky and ooze for longer, maybe up until 8 weeks. But it does not hurt the whole time. Most people feel better the day after the procedure and only complain of pain if someone steps on the toe or they drop something on it.
If you have an ingrown toenail, then you are obviously past the point of prevention. But if you have had an ingrown nail in the past and do not want to repeat history, this is our advice.
- avoid ill fitting shoes
- avoid cutting your nails deep into the corners
- avoid people, kids and dogs that like to step on your toes
Visit us at :
Center for Ankle and Foot Care
3190 Citrus Tower Blvd Ste A
Clermont, FL 34711