Will I need surgery for an ingrown toenail?

preparing for ingrown toenail surgery

Ingrown toenails start as minor nuisances but can develop into big problems—and for some people, they can cause life-threatening complications. The best way to avoid surgery for these nails is to stop them at the first sign of trouble.

Early Treatments for Ingrown Toenails

If this is the first time you’ve had an ingrown toenail and it hasn’t progressed very far into the skin,  you may be able to correct the condition before it gets worse. A few simple but effective home methods include:

  • Lifting. Lifting the nail straightens its curved edge, allowing it to grow out and away from the nail bed. Start by soaking your foot for a few minutes to soften the skin and nails. Pat your foot dry, and gently lift the ingrown away from the skin using clean dental floss. Place a clean piece of cotton under the nail to hold it in position and bandage it with a small amount of antibiotic ointment. Change the cotton and bandage every day, ensuring that your condition is improving.
  • Shoe changes. A different pair of shoes can be invaluable in treating ingrown toenails. Roomy clogs or open-toed shoes minimize pressure on the toe, while upgrading to shoes in a larger size prevents other nails from being pushed into the skin.
  • Pain relief. Soaking your feet in warm water for 10-20 minutes can help relieve pain, while over-the-counter medications like ibuprofen can help reduce swelling.

Some Patients Are More Likely to Need Toenail Surgery

If the skin has grown over the nail, or the nail is so deep into the skin that it cannot be lifted, you should seek a podiatrist’s help immediately. The longer the condition goes untreated, the more painful and potentially dangerous it becomes.

You may opt for surgical removal of the nail if you have:

  • Noticed signs of infection. A nail that feels tender or sore may soon start to swell, turn red, or even begin cracking open and oozing. Swift removal may be needed to prevent the infection from spreading.
  • Diabetes. Patients with diabetes may be unable to feel an ingrown toenail until it has progressed significantly, increasing the risk of systemic infection or eventual amputation. When we evaluate your affected nail, we can advise you on footwear choices and trim your remaining nails so they don’t become ingrown.
  • A history of ingrown toenails. Patients with foot deformities or irregular foot mechanics may suffer recurring ingrown toenails. Surgery can relieve the current condition, but it can also stop nails from growing inward in the future.

Will I Have to Go to the Hospital to Have a Toenail Removed?

Our investment in the latest technology means that you won’t have to endure a long and frightening procedure under general anesthesia. Dr. Wettstein performs the entire process right in our office using a local anesthetic, so you’ll be awake the whole time and able to walk out the door in about an hour.

Toenail removal surgery may involve:

  • Numbing the affected area for 2-4 hours
  • Extracting the ingrown portion of the nail
  • Cleaning the wound and treating any infection with antibiotics
  • Removal of the nail matrix along the edge of the toenail to prevent the nail from growing unnaturally in the future
  • Bandaging the foot to protect it from trauma as it heals
  • Resting the foot for 24 hours after the procedure
  • Allowing the foot to fully recover over the next two or three weeks (you will likely be able to resume normal activities within a day or two of surgery)

The easiest and most effective way to know what your condition requires is to consult with an experienced podiatrist. Our foot and ankle specialists can examine your feet carefully and devise a plan of action that works for you. Simply request an appointment online or speak with our team in either Twin Falls or Burley by calling (208) 731-6321.