American Heart MonthFor many people, an ingrown toenail is considered a minor inconvenience, not a serious issue that needs to be dealt with immediately. While it’s true that an ingrown toenail isn’t necessarily worth a trip to the emergency room, there’s another fact many patients overlook: ingrown toenails can progressively become worse, inviting infections and other complications the longer you put off treating it.

At South Texas Podiatrist, Dr. Davis and his team want their patients to know how important it is to pay attention to their feet, even when it comes to something like an ingrown toenail. Here’s some more information on ingrown toenails, as well as a discussion on how ingrown toenail treatment works:

What Is An Ingrown Toenail? How Do I Know I Have One?

You may already know that your nails and hair grow continuously. That’s why we have to cut them every so often. In the case of an ingrown toenail, the side or corner of a toenail has grown into the adjacent flesh, resulting in swelling, redness, and pain in the area. Ingrown toenails can occur on any toe, but they typically affect the big toe more often than others. If you’re noticing the following symptoms in your feet, you may have an ingrown toenail:

  • Pain around the sides of your toenail
  • Swelling in the affected area of the toe
  • Tenderness in the affected toe
  • Signs of infection, like pus

Usually, an ingrown toenail has occurred due to an environmental cause, such as wearing shoes that are too small in the toe, injuring your toenail (stubbing it, dropping something on it, etc), or clipping your nails too short. However, some people are actually born with unusually curved toenails, making them more prone to ingrown toenails simply because of the direction in which their toenails naturally grow.

How to Practice Ingrown Toenail Prevention

If you have an ingrown toenail already, you may be thinking about treatment options. However, it’s also important to understand that ingrown toenails are often completely preventable. If you’d like to avoid having an ingrown toenail in the first place, use the following guidelines:

  • Use the right technique to trim your toenails. Curved toenails aren’t healthy, and your nails should be cut straight across, using the entire surface of your toenail clippers. Additionally, trimming your nails too short can cause them to grow into flesh, especially when your shoes press against them as they’re trying to regrow. Your toenails should always be even with the tips of your shoes.
  • Make sure your shoes fit. When shoes are too small or tight, they can pinch the toes and cause the nail to grow into the tissue rather than outward. If your feet have an unusual shape, it’s worth investing in shoes that really fit you properly.
  • Wear the right gear for the right day. You wouldn’t wear high heels on a run, would you? What you wear on your feet should change reasonably between activities. Choosing the footwear that is most appropriate for whatever activity you’re doing will ensure that your toes aren’t constricted or pressured in a way that causes your toenails to grow into your skin.

If you have nerve damage in your feet as a result of diabetes, an injury, or another condition, you may not feel the symptoms of an ingrown toenail right away, or even the kind of pain that indicates that your shoes are too tight. If this is the case for you, take extra care to examine your feet on a regular basis, and be sure to establish a relationship with a podiatrist who can ensure your feet stay healthy.

How Ingrown Toenails Are Treated by the Top Foot Doctor in San Antonio, TX

In some cases, ingrown toenail treatment at home can be sufficient to relieve symptoms and remove the ingrown nail. However, other, more serious cases may need medical attention from a podiatrist. To treat an ingrown toenail, podiatrists may:

  • Lift the ingrowing nail at the edge, placing a soft support such as cotton or a splint under it to separate it from the skin as it grows above the edge. This usually takes between 2 and 12 weeks, during which you may be asked to soak your toe and replace the support each day.
  • Pull the skin away from the ingrown nail using sticky tape.
  • Remove part of the nail, especially in serious cases where an infection has set in. In even more severe cases, your podiatrist may remove part of the nail bed as well.

Why Should I See a Podiatrist for my Ingrown Toenail?

While an ingrown toenail may not seem like a big deal, the real issue lies in the complications that can arise if the problem is left untreated. When left to progress for weeks, or even months, a simple ingrown toenail can actually develop into a bacterial infection that seeps deep into the bone of your toe. This condition is called osteomyelitis(opens in a new tab), and its treatment is far less simple than what it would take for your doctor to handle an ingrown toenail.

If you’re experiencing symptoms that might indicate an infection – such as severe pain or discomfort, pus that appears to be spreading, or persistent redness in the area – it’s important to visit your Texas podiatrist as soon as you possibly can. At South Texas Podiatrist, we’re proud to help patients find relief from common foot conditions and ensure that their problem doesn’t become more serious in the long run.

With 20+ years of experience providing top-quality foot care, South Texas Podiatrist is here to help you get back on your feet. If you’re ready to experience care from the best podiatrist San Antonio has to offer, schedule an appointment with us today.