Ingrown toenails might seem insignificant at first, but trust us: they’re one of the most common conditions we see at our office. They can cause severe pain and discomfort for people of all ages.
In fact, untreated ingrown toenails can put you at risk of infection and other serious complications—especially if you have diabetes or poor circulation. (And unfortunately, by the time most people finally decide to come see us for treatment, infections may have already begun.)
If you suspect you’re dealing with an ingrown toenail, it’s important to seek help. The good news is that office treatment for this condition is quick, relatively painless, very safe, and potentially permanent depending on the procedures you select.
Symptoms of Ingrown Toenails
There are various symptoms of ingrown nails, including:
- Tenderness and pain in a toenail, particularly along one or both edges of the affected nail.
- Swelling, redness, or infection in the area around the toenail.
- Pus or redness that appears to be spreading. If this is the case, be sure to contact Austin Foot and Ankle Specialists to make the earliest appointment possible.
Ingrown Toenail Causes
There are a handful of potential causes behind an ingrown toenail. Common ones include wearing shoes that are too tight and crowd the nails, clipping toenails too short, rounding off toenails, and injury to the nail, often as the result of physical trauma.
For some individuals, the root cause of the ingrown nail is simply an inherited toenail structure that is unusually curved.
Treating Ingrown Toenails
If your ingrown toenail is less severe, you do not have diabetes or poor circulation, and there are no signs of infection, you may decide to try home care first. (However, you can definitely still call us instead if you just don’t want to deal with the hassle. For most people that really is the better choice!)
You may be able to find relief using the following process:
- Soak your foot in warm water for 15-20 minutes three or four times during the day to relieve tenderness and reduce swelling.
- After soaking the foot, gently lift the ingrown edge of the nail and place a fresh bit of waxed dental floss underneath it. This will help prevent the nail from continuing to grow into the skin.
- Apply an antibiotic ointment on the sensitive area and then cover with a clean bandage.
- Wear sandals or open-toed shoes until the affected toe is feeling better.
- Contact our office for dosage recommendations and then take naproxen, acetaminophen, or ibuprofen to relieve toe pain.
While this process can work for less severe ingrown toenails, it’s not our primary recommendation for most patients. Professional treatment is faster, safer, more reliable, and has a lower risk of infection, even for mild cases. Far too often, we end up treating people with severe ingrown toenails who could have saved themselves a lot of time and discomfort by calling us at the first sign of trouble!
Professional Treatment Options
When home care is not enough, not desired, or you are faced with a toenail that is constantly becoming ingrown, it is time to come see us for professional care. Depending on your situation, we may need to remove either a part or all of the nail. The toe is numbed for the procedure, so you’ll only feel pressure—not pain.
This procedure only takes about 5-10 minutes, and you’ll be able to drive home afterward. We recommend you keep your feet up and stick to open-toed shoes for the rest of the day, but for the most part people can return to normal daily activities within 24 hours.
By the time the anesthetic wears off, you should notice a significant improvement in your symptoms. If you continue to feel mild discomfort, intermittent icing and over-the-counter anti-inflammatories should be more than sufficient to handle it over the next several days. If pain persists or is severe, give us a call.
If recurring ingrown toenails are a problem for you, we can also remove the corresponding portion of the nail bed and stop the growth of new nail tissue. This solves the problem permanently.
Preventing Ingrown Nails
Ingrown toenail prevention is a matter of a few proactive measures:
- Wear shoes that fit properly. There should be enough room in the toe box for your toes to wiggle freely and a thumb’s width of space between the longest toe and the front of the shoe.
- Trim your toenails properly. This means making sure that they are not too short or rounded off. A good guideline is to keep them even with the edge of the toe and clipped straight across.
- Protect your feet. If your job requires you to frequently move heavy items, make sure you have your feet protected with safety shoes or steel-toe work boots. When moving heavy objects at home, ask a loved one or friend to help.
Professional Ingrown Toenail Treatment
There are certainly instances where you will be able to take care of an ingrown toenail at home, but remember that we are also available to provide professional treatment for the condition. As previously noted, if there is pus or redness that has started to spread, do not attempt to handle it on your own. Contact our Austin, TX podiatrist office instead and have our medical specialists do it for you.
You can reach Austin Foot and Ankle Specialists by calling (512) 328-8900 and our staff will be glad to provide more information and answer any questions you might have. If you prefer, you can schedule your appointment with our office online today.