Once upon a time, toenails were an important protective feature for the toes. However, with the invention of shoes, they lost their usefulness in that regard. They still do exist though, and are sometimes the source of various issues, as when they become ingrown.
How do I Know if I have an Ingrown Toenail?
Pain! This is the symptom that is most likely to alert you to the fact that you have an ingrown toenail. Pain along one or both edges of the nail. You may also notice redness, warmth, swelling, and sometimes even draining nasty fluid. The corner of the nail is digging into the flesh of the toe, causing pain and irritation to the skin. Be sure to schedule an appointment with our office if you notice any of these symptoms. Additionally, diabetic individuals should come in for care at the earliest sign of this condition. Professional diabetic foot care is important to prevent severe complications for this patient population.
Why Do Nails Become Ingrown?
When we consider the causes of ingrown toenails, the good news is that several of them are preventable, including the fit of shoes, physical trauma and nail trimming procedures.
A common cause of ingrown toenails is improper trimming practices. Frequently, patients come in with nails that had been trimmed too short or were rounded off. Another frequently-seen cause of the condition is footwear that does not fit properly. Shoes that are too tight, including high heels and athletic footwear, can squash the toes together. Dropping a heavy item on your foot is not only painful and increases the risk of broken bones, but also may cause ingrown toenails.
Not all causes are easily controlled. Sometimes an inherited, unusually-curved nail structure causes an issue. Additionally, accidents simply happen, like heavy items falling down onto a patient’s feet, or getting stepped on repeatedly by your dog! Ouch!
Treatment Options for Ingrown Nails
Regardless why an ingrown toenail has developed, it will need to be treated. The condition is progressive, which means that it does not correct itself naturally. If the problem is ignored, it can often lead to a local infection, and oral antibiotics could be required. It is best to obtain treatment from a professional in these cases. For many simpler cases, however, home treatment is rather effective.
Home Treatment for Simple Ingrown Toenails:
- Soaking the affected toe for about 15 minutes in warm water with Epson salts, 2 times a day, to reduce swelling and tenderness.
- Gently lifting the edge that has become ingrown and placing a bit of cotton underneath it.
- Applying antibiotic cream or ointment to reduce the risk of infection, and then covering with a fresh bandage.
- Keep the area clean, and do not expose to dirt by walking barefoot, or without a bandage.
- Wearing open-toed shoes or sandals until the condition improves.
- Over-the-counter pain relievers can help with painful symptoms, but always follow the specific dosage recommendation on the box
In the case of severe or recurring ingrown toenails, professional care is necessary. Our office can help by either partially or completely removing an affected nail.
In Office Treatment for Ingrown Toenails- PAIN FREE!
- Before anything happens, we apply a cream to the base of your toe, which numbs it up. This reduces your discomfort to almost non-existant, BEFORE any needles are used for local anesthetic! We then use a cooling spray before the injection with the local anesthetic is given. With this process, you won’t feel anything except perhaps a sensation of pressure. Almost instantly, the pain from the ingrown toenail is gone!
- Then, AFTER you are all numbed up, your toe is then cleaned using a sterile procedure
- The doctor then trims away the portion of the toenail which is digging into your skin.
- If performing a permanent solution for the ingrown nail, a chemical is then applied to the area where the nail grows out from (the nail matrix) under the cuticle. This destroys the cells in that area, and the ingrown nail WILL NOT grow back, problem solved!
- Regardless if a temporary solution, or permanent, you will have some home care to perform following your office visit. (Post-Operative Nail Procedure Instructions for Home) Epson salt soaks, topical antibiotic cream and daily bandage changes are required to properly care for the procedure site, and ensure a quick healing.
Ingrown Toenail Prevention
Since the condition increases the risk of infection, causes pain, and can possibly lead to the permanent removal of a nail, it is best to take preventative measures to reduce the risk of ingrown nails developing in the first place. Some practices to lower your risk include:
- Protect your feet:
- Invest in a pair of high-quality steel-toed work boots or other protective footwear if your job requires that you often lift or move heavy objects. If you are moving heavy items at home, always enlist the help of a friend or loved one for safety.
- Trim your nails correctly:
- When trimming your nails, keep them even with the edge of the toe and clip straight across.Do not clip to close to the skin of the toe, be sure to leave a thin portion of the free edge to avoid cutting your skin.
- Wear shoes that fit:
- Shoes need to have room in the front for your toes to wiggle freely. If your toes are compressed, find a different pair. You should have about a thumb-nail length from the end of your toe to the shoe, for enough wiggle room!
Professional Toenail Care in Southern Tier, NY
Whether you or your loved ones are plagued by ingrown toenails or any of the other common conditions that can affect nail tissue, we are ready to help. Southern Tier Podiatry is your source for the first-class, comprehensive foot care you need in the Greater Binghamton, NY community. Contact us today by calling (607) 217-5668 or using our online form to schedule your appointment.