Most people give little thought to their feet and toes until there is an issue like an ingrown toenail. If you’re experiencing pain, redness, inflammation, or swelling, it may be time to see the doctor for professional help.
Here at PMC Foot and Ankle Clinic located in Spring, Texas, Dr. Eric Blanson and our highly skilled staff can provide care for all your foot and ankle needs. Whether your issue is related to a sports injury, pain in the heel, nerve or joint or a podiatry condition like a bunion, hammertoe, or an ingrown toenail, we use state-of-the-art treatments for the best possible outcome.
If you’re suffering from an ingrown toenail, you aren’t alone. This common foot ailment strikes roughly one in five people in the United States at some time during their lives. Most often, it affects the big toe though it can happen to any of the digits of the foot.
An ingrown toenail occurs when the front or side edge of the nail curves into the skin rather than growing straight out of the nail bed. A number of different actions can cause this uncomfortable ailment, ranging from cutting the toenails too short and wearing shoes that are too tight and cramp or pinch the toes to an injury to the nail like stubbing the toe or dropping something heavy on the foot. Fungal infections and a congenital defect like the nail being too big can also lead to an ingrown toenail. Genetics can also play a role.
Signs and treatment
Initially an ingrown toenail may cause only mild symptoms like a twinge of discomfort when the nail gets moved or squeezed. Though pain can be minimal, it’s important not to dismiss it because treating it early may help prevent problems later.
At first, you may opt for at-home treatments, including soaking the toes in warm water up to four times a day and trying to reduce inflammation by massaging the sore toe. Keeping the feet and toes dry and wearing comfortable shoes with enough room can also help. You can also take over-the-counter pain relievers as needed. Do not try to cut the nail or nailbed yourself in an attempt to fix the problem.
If symptoms don’t improve within several days of beginning at-home treatment or if they get worse, it’s important to see a podiatrist to determine if an infection is present. Redness, swelling, and throbbing can all be signs of an infection. Similarly, feeling pressure under the nail and/or its being warm to the touch can also indicate a problem. Another red flag is if the toe is foul-smelling or draining pus or fluid.
Anyone with diabetes or another circulation issue should see a doctor immediately rather than waiting a few days since diabetics have a greater risk of infection.
Treatment possibilities range from lifting the nail with a splint to separate it from the skin in mild cases to more involved procedures if the situation is more serious or the toe has become infected.