Ingrown toenails may be painful, but they’re not really anything to worry about, right? Wrong.
Without proper care, an ingrown toenail can quickly turn into something much more serious, especially if you have diabetes or an immune disorder, or you get ingrown toenails on a regular basis.
At Gelbmann Podiatry, our board-certified podiatrists help relieve ingrown toenail symptoms and prevent more serious problems from developing. The key is to seek medical care as soon as possible, especially if home remedies like soaking the nail don’t help.
Here’s why you need prompt medical care for your ingrown toenail. First, let’s start with some background about ingrown toenails.
How ingrown toenails happen
Ingrown toenails are among the most common foot problems for adults of all ages, affecting about 40 million people at some point in their lives.
For many people, ingrown toenails are rare. But for others, this painful condition happens on a fairly regular basis. The most common causes of recurring ingrown toenails are:
- Trimming your toenails in a curved shape
- Having nails that are deeply curved inward
- Wearing shoes that are tight or don’t fit properly
- Wearing high heels
- Injuring the toe
- Having an unusual foot shape or gait pattern
Regardless of the cause, never ignore an ingrown toenail or allow it to heal on its own. Bacterial growth and infections can occur rapidly around an ingrown toenail, thanks to the warm environment of your shoes.
Ingrown toenail complications
It’s easy to ignore an ingrown nail at first. After all, it’s just your toenail. But ignoring those early painful symptoms only allows the nail to grow deeper, significantly increasing the risk of infection.
Initially, you might not notice anything beyond some mild discomfort, along with minor swelling and redness in the area. But over time, bacteria can enter the wound, resulting in a local infection that can quickly spread.
As the infection progresses, the area around the nail becomes more swollen and more painful. You might notice pus oozing from the area where the nail is embedded in your skin. The pain of wearing a shoe may be almost unbearable.
Without prompt care, the infection can spread to other areas of your foot and even into the bones. Eventually, the infection can wind up killing off the healthy tissue in your toe, requiring an amputation of your toe or your foot.
If you have diabetes or other circulation issues, you’re at risk for these more serious complications.
Treating an ingrown toenail
If you have an ingrown toenail, we begin by examining your foot for signs of infection or trauma before deciding on the best course of treatment.
Often, conservative treatment like soaking the foot and gently pushing the skin away from the nail can successfully ease an ingrown toenail. If not, medical intervention is necessary.
In the early stages of an ingrown nail, we may prescribe topical medication to kill germs and prevent an infection.
Sometimes the best solution may be to remove part of the toenail to relieve painful symptoms, prevent or manage an infection, and keep the nail from growing back into the skin.
Don’t ignore an ingrown toenail
If you have an ingrown toenail, don’t ignore it. Call one of our offices or use our online booking form to schedule a visit today. We’re located in the Near Southside and West Town sections of Chicago.