An ingrown toenail is a common affliction among at any age, and usually isn’t a concern. However, ingrown toenails can be painful and can hamper your lifestyle. In fact, about 1 in 5 people who visit a doctor for foot problems has an ingrown toenail.
Eric Blanson, DPM, an expert podiatrist, treats ingrown toenails at PMC Foot and Ankle Clinic in Spring, Texas. If you have an ingrown toenail that’s not getting better, here’s when you should seek medical care.
First, what is an ingrown toenail?
When the edge of your nail grows into the fleshy part of your nail bed, instead of out and away from the skin, it’s known as an ingrown toenail. Ingrown toenails most commonly affect your big toe, where they cause swelling and pain.
You may first realize that you have an ingrown toenail because it hurts when you stand or walk. You may see that the edge of the nail is starting to grow into the skin and that the toe around the nail is red and slightly inflamed.
If you catch and treat the ingrown toenail in time, you may be able to manage the inflammation and pain on your own by icing the area with a wrapped ice pad and using ibuprofen or other OTC painkillers. However, if you have a weakened immune system or diabetes, the inflammation in your toe can spread to other areas of your body.
Why do you have an ingrown toenail?
Ingrown toenails most commonly develop because the nail was improperly cut or trimmed. Ideally, you should cut your nails straight across rather than rounding them at the edges to follow the shape of your toe. Curved toenails run the risk of growing into the skin at the edge of the nail. Other causes of ingrown toenails include:
- Wearing shoes that are too tight
- Being overweight
- Taking medications to treat cancer
- Having sweaty feet
- Having diabetes or a condition that causes water retention in your feet
You also have an increased risk of ingrown toenails if you have tube-shaped nails that curve around your toes.
When to treat ingrown toenails at home
The best time to home-treat an ingrown toenail is before it causes trouble or becomes too painful. Try the following treatments at the first sign of an ingrown toenail:
- Soak your foot in warm, soapy water with Epsom salts three times a day for 20 minutes
- Soak your foot in warm water combined with ¼ cup of apple cider vinegar for 20 minutes
- Place waxed dental floss under the nail to gently lift it from the toe
- Cover the toe with over-the-counter antibiotic ointments and protect it with a bandage
- Wear shoes that fit properly, go barefoot, or wear sandals until the toe heals
However, if you don’t get quick relief with these measures, it may be time to visit us at PMC Foot and Ankle Clinic. Also, if you have diabetes or peripheral artery disease (PAD) or other foot problems, you should contact us as soon as you notice an ingrown toenail.
When you need a doctor for an ingrown toenail
Schedule an appointment with our team if you notice pus or new, inflamed tissue growing around the edges of the affected toenail. You should also see a podiatrist if the skin around the toenail has begun to grow over the nail. And, again, if you already have foot issues or a condition that affects your foot health, such as diabetes, contact us right away.
If you have an ingrown toenail that’s not responding to home treatment, is painful, or if you have diabetes, contact us right away. Call our office or schedule your appointment online today.