An ingrown toenail may seem like a minor health issue. However, if you have diabetes, an ingrown toenail can quickly escalate into a severe medical problem.
Dangers of Ingrown Toenails
An ingrown toenail occurs when part of the toenail grows into the skin around it, causing pain, redness, and swelling. Anyone with an ingrown toenail may be uncomfortable or develop an infection, but people with diabetes may face more significant risks and need to check for ingrown toenails regularly.
Nerve damage and reduced blood flow associated with diabetes can make it difficult to feel pain in your feet. Additionally, ingrown toenails, like other foot wounds, may be slow to heal if you have diabetes.
Without treatment, an ingrown toenail can cause dangerous complications, including:
- Increased risk of infection. If the area becomes infected, the infection can spread to surrounding tissue, bone, or other parts of the body, leading to serious health concerns.
- Gangrene. In some cases, an infected ingrown toenail can cause restricted blood flow to the affected area, which can lead to gangrene. This condition causes tissue to die and, if left untreated, can lead to amputation.
- Amputation. If the infection from the ingrown toenail cannot be controlled or gangrene develops, amputation may be necessary to save your life.
For these reasons, knowing what to do is essential if you have an ingrown toenail.
Don't Treat Your Ingrown Toenail on Your Own
It may be tempting to try to treat an ingrown toenail at home, but this can be dangerous for people with diabetes. Home remedies such as soaking the foot in warm water or using over-the-counter treatments can provide temporary relief, but they may not eliminate the risk of infection.
Additionally, attempting to remove the nail or cut away the affected area can lead to further complications, including infection and injury.
How a Podiatrist Can Treat Your Ingrown Toenail Safely
A podiatrist can provide a range of treatments for ingrown toenails, depending on the severity of the condition. Some possible treatments include:
- Partial nail removal. In some cases, the podiatrist may need to remove part of the toenail to allow the area to heal correctly. This can be done under local anesthesia and is a relatively simple procedure.
- Antibiotics. If the area is infected, the podiatrist may prescribe antibiotics to help clear the infection.
- Orthotics. The podiatrist may recommend orthotics, which are custom-made shoe inserts, to help prevent future ingrown toenails.
- Surgery. In severe cases, surgery may be necessary to remove the affected nail and prevent future issues.
It's essential to seek treatment from a podiatrist as soon as possible if you suspect you have an ingrown toenail. Do not wait to see if it will go away on its own. Instead, consult with an experienced podiatrist as soon as possible to ensure you get the treatment necessary to prevent painful ingrown toenail complications.
Your podiatrist can also recommend ingrown toenail prevention tips to prevent future ingrown toenails. Some tips for preventing ingrown toenails include:
- Proper foot care. Be sure to wash and dry your feet regularly, and check your feet for any signs of injury or infection.
- Trim toenails carefully. When trimming your toenails, be sure to cut them straight across and avoid rounding the edges. Additionally, keep your toenail length even with the ends of your toes. Shorter toenails may be more likely to grow into the skin next to the nail.
- Wear comfortable shoes. Avoid tight-fitting shoes that can put pressure on your toes and cause ingrown toenails to develop.
- Maintain good blood sugar control. High blood sugar levels can increase the risk of foot complications, so it's important to control your blood sugar levels to the extent possible.
- Get regular podiatry exams. Your podiatrist will thoroughly examine your feet for the first signs of ingrown toenails and other potentially dangerous foot conditions.