Ingrown Toenails

What is an ingrown toenail?

An ingrown toenail occurs when the edges of your toenail grow into the skin surrounding the nail. At first, an ingrown toenail may be little more than an irritation, but, if ignored, it can grow infected, and become a more serious problem.

Risks of ingrown toenails

Patients with diabetes or poor circulation should note the risks that an ingrown toenail poses to their health. In these cases, an infection from an ingrown toenail can quickly turn into gangrene of the toe. Patients with joint replacements and pacemakers are at risk of bacteria from an ingrown toenail infection spreading through their blood and into these sites. If you have a pacemaker, artificial joint, diabetes, or poor circulation, please seek medical help at the earliest sign of an ingrown toenail.

Causes of ingrown toenails

Ingrown toenails have several causes:

  • Inherited tendency for developing ingrown toenails
  • Cutting your toenails too short or cutting too far into the side of the nail
  • Poorly fitting shoes
  • Tearing or pulling off nails instead of clipping

If you get an ingrown toenail once, your likelihood of getting one again is significantly high. Many people try to cut out an ingrown toenail themselves, only to have it occur again a few months later.

Treatment

To treat an infected ingrown toenail, your podiatrist will first try to trim the ingrown portion of the nail. This sometimes requires the are to be numbed with a local anesthetic. Once the ingrown portion of the nail is removed, your follow-up treatment will include soaking and topical antibiotics to help fight the infection. Sometimes, you may be prescribed an oral antibiotic.

Recovery time is short and relatively painless. You may experience some mild discomfort from the site, but you should be able to resume all normal activities the day following your procedure.

In some cases, the ingrown toenail may persist or return. If this happens, your podiatrist will use a more permanent method of treatment. This treatment involves the use of an acid to remove the root of the nail in the in the ingrown areas, which followed by more soaking and topical antibiotics, and possibly oral antibiotics.

Prevention

Try the following methods to prevent ingrown toenails:

  • Trim your toenails straight across
  • Do not cut into the sides of your toenails
  • Do not cut your toenails too short
  • Wear properly fitted shoes