Ingrown toenails can be an uncomfortable (and unfortunately common) nuisance for many. Sometimes, nails don’t grow as they’re supposed to—instead, they dig into the soft flesh surrounding them, leading to pain, swelling, and tenderness. Left unchecked, an ingrown toenail may even develop an infection that could eventually reach the bone if no treatment is sought.
Causes and Risk Factors
The exact cause of an individual ingrown toenail episode is not always clear. However, common contributing factors may include:
- Tight footwear (shoes or even socks) that crowds and cramps the toes and presses on the nails
- Trimming toenails too short, or curving the corners when you clip
- Injuries to the toe (including repetitive trauma)
- Nails that are naturally very curved (or at the other extreme, very flat)
If you have chronic problems, you should consider if any of the above factors apply to your situation. It could be that certain modifications in routine (such as changing trimming technique or wearing shoes that are better-fitting or more protective) may help you prevent subsequent cases.
Do Home Remedies Work?
You may find some relief from at-home care if your case is not particularly severe and you do not have any complicating conditions (such as diabetes or vascular disease). Soaking feet for 15-20 minutes at a time, applying antibiotic ointments, and wearing open-toed shoes to minimize pressure can help you feel better.
However, if you have a complicating condition, the pain is severe, or you notice any signs of infection, you should schedule an appointment with us as soon as possible.
How We Can Help
Many people are nervous to come see us about removing an ingrown nail. However, you have nothing to worry about. The procedure is relatively quick, happens right in our office (no need to go to the hospital), and Dr. Wettstein strives to make the entire process as relaxed and painless as possible. As a matter of fact, he’s even performed the procedure on himself before!
The first step is to remove the portion of the nail that’s ingrown. We’ll use a local anesthetic to numb the toe and keep discomfort to a minimum before trimming the offending portion of the nail. If there’s an infection present, we’ll drain the area and set you up with an antibiotic or other medications you’ll need.
If ingrown toenails have been a recurring problem on the same toe—or if you just want to get rid of the problem for good—removal of the nail matrix using a chemical treatment will prevent the ingrown edge of the toenail from growing back. This method has a very high success rate, good cosmetic results and is very safe even for young children, making it a great option.
Two other great benefits of using surgical treatments to deal with an ingrown nail are that first, the pain relief begins immediately, and second, most people are able to go back to their normal everyday activities the very next day after a procedure. Unlike more extensive foot surgeries, you shouldn’t have to take much time off from work or have to avoid weight-bearing activity.
We know you want to be able to work, run, hike, and play without pain. If an ingrown toenail is keeping you from the things you love—or making them difficult to enjoy without pain—please give us a call. Check out other common skin and nail care conditions.