Why You Shouldn't Ignore an Ingrown Toenail

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Why You Shouldn't Ignore an Ingrown Toenail

Ingrown toenails are a common problem among many people, but they aren't something you should take lightly.

Many factors influence your chances of an ingrown toenail, including medical conditions like diabetes, playing sports, and your nail care habits.

If you're at risk for an ingrown toenail, you must understand how to care for your nails properly to prevent them in the first place. However, if you already are living with the condition, it's vital to understand the consequences of letting an ingrown toenail go without treatment.

Dr. Scott Shields and the Total Foot & Ankle team are experts in various foot and ankle conditions, including ingrown toenails.

Dr. Shields provides a quick diagnosis and customized treatments when you're suffering from an ingrown toenail that won't get better with home remedies.

Signs of an ingrown toenail

An ingrown toenail is a common problem that typically affects the big toe but can also happen with other toes. It occurs when one of the edges of the nail digs into the skin and begins to grow into the surrounding tissues.

In most cases, improper nail care and cutting techniques cause an ingrown toenail. When you don't cut the nail properly, it grows down instead of straight out, causing an ingrown nail.

Mild ingrown toenails may not cause any symptoms at all. However, the longer an ingrown toenail is present, the worse the symptoms become. Common signs of an ingrown toenail include the following:

  • Pain around the affected nail
  • Tenderness to touch
  • Swelling around the nail and toe
  • Redness
  • Pus or bloody drainage from the nail

If the ingrown toenail becomes infected, it's typically excruciating and red, and it has purulent drainage from the edge of the nail. If you notice an infection, seeking medical treatment to prevent further complications is crucial.

Complications of an ingrown nail

The most significant complication of an ingrown toenail is an infection. When the nail grows into the surrounding skin, it opens the skin up to harmful bacteria.

When the bacteria enter the skin, they feed off the warm environment, which sometimes leads to an infection. If you're healthy, it's not likely the infection will spread, but can limit your ability to work/play and wear shoes due to pain. 

However, if you're living with a condition like diabetes, your feet are at risk for slow-healing wounds and chronic infections. In severe cases, the infection can spread down to the bone.

Osteomyelitis is a severe bone infection that often affects people with chronic health conditions or a weakened immune system. It can lead to other complications and result in long-term antibiotic treatment and can lead to amputation.

Although most ingrown toenails don't lead to severe complications, getting treatment is always a good idea. The quicker you get this healed the quicker you are back to getting the activities that you need to be doing done without that pain and risk. 

Getting treatment is key

If you have an ingrown toenail, the first line of treatment is often home care, as long as an infection isn't present. We offer several nail care tips to help eliminate the symptoms of an ingrown nail, which include:

  • Soak the affected foot in warm, soapy water
  • Keep the nail and foot dry after soaking
  • Wear shoes with room in the toe box
  • Gently lift the affected nail and put dental floss or cotton underneath
  • Use antibiotic cream and cover it with a bandage

If you're experiencing pain related to the ingrown nail, you can use over-the-counter pain relievers to reduce discomfort until the problem resolves.

However, if the nail isn't getting better with home treatments or you notice signs of an infection, you should contact our team for Dr. Shields to evaluate the nail.

Often with ingrown nails, Dr. Shields can use OnyFix (a type of a brace that takes the excessive curve out of the nail over time) with minor trimming of the nail so that the nail can grow out without impinging the flesh and hurting.

More severe cases of ingrown nails may require a nail avulsion procedure. During this procedure, Dr. Shields removes part or all of the nail to prevent it from growing into the skin again.

The type of treatment you need depends on various factors, including the severity of the ingrown toenail, your overall health, and complications related to the problem.

To schedule an appointment with Dr. Shields for an ingrown toenail, contact our office in Enid  Oklahoma today. You can also request an appointment using our convenient online booking tool.