Ingrown toenails are a very common condition that usually affects the big toe. Many people taper the corners when trimming their toenails so that the nail curves with the shape of the toe. However, this technique can cause the toenail to grow into the skin, creating a painful ingrown toenail.
Causes and Symptoms
Ingrown toenails develop when the toenail grows into the surrounding skin, or when the surrounding skin grows over the edge of the nail. This can occur on one side of the nail, or on both sides.
Although improper trimming of the nail is a common cause of ingrown toenails, they can develop for other reasons. Wearing shoes that are too tight can also cause ingrown toenails. In some cases, people are born with a toenail that is too large for the toe, putting them at a greater risk of ingrown toenails. Stubbing the toe, having it stepped on, or other trauma to the toe can result in an ingrown toenail as well. Any toenail can become ingrown, but ingrown nails are most common in the big toes.
When an ingrown toenail first begins to develop, the affected area may feel hard, swollen, and tender. As it progresses, the area may turn red and feel very sore. An infection may develop, and in some cases a small amount of pus may drain from the area.
Treatment for Ingrown Toenails
If ingrown toenails are recognized and treated early on, particularly before infection sets in, there may not be a need for surgery. However, if the toenail is infected and there is a significant amount of inflammation, swelling, pain, and discharge, or nonsurgical treatment is ineffective, surgery may be needed to correct the problem.
Nonsurgical treatment for ingrown toenails involves soaking the foot in warm water 3-4 times per day to soften the nail. Your doctor may recommend gently lifting the ingrown edge of the nail and placing some cotton or dental floss underneath to separate the nail from the skin and encourage it to grow above the skin. The cotton or dental floss should be changed daily.
When not soaking the foot, it should be kept dry, and you should wear comfortable shoes or sandals to avoid putting pressure on the ingrown toenail. If you need, you may take ibuprofen or acetaminophen for pain.
If the nail is infected, you may need to take antibiotics to help clear it up. The nail may also be partially or completely removed, depending on the severity of the case.
During the procedure, your doctor may use special scissors to trim away the ingrown portion of the nail. A portion of the nail bed may be removed as well, particularly if the ingrown nail is a recurring problem. Removing part of the nail bed may prevent that portion of the nail from growing back. In some cases, the entire ingrown toenail may be removed; a new nail regrows in approximately 3-4 months.
Ingrown toenails can recur if you don’t take care of your feet properly. Protect your feet from trauma, and wear shoes that fit well and have enough room for your toes. Avoid wearing tight shoes. When cutting your nails, always cut straight across and no shorter than the edge of the toe; never taper or round the edges of the nail.
Ingrown Toenail Treatment in Houston, TX
The podiatrists at Spring Branch Podiatry offer a full range of foot and ankle services, including treatment of ingrown toenails. Most ingrown toenail procedures can be done on-site on an outpatient basis. If you have any questions about ingrown toenail treatment or would like to schedule an appointment with Dr. Beckman, contact our office at (713) 461-1010.