Ingrown toenails are among the most common podiatric problems. They occur when the nail on one of the toes, usually the big toe, begins to grow into the soft skin on one or both sides. This can be painful, and if left untreated, it can result in an infection of the foot. In the worst cases, such an infection can spread throughout the limb, requiring an amputation. The following steps with help you to deal with ingrown toenails quickly and safely, and protect your foot from damage:
1. Look for signs of infection
Infected toenails are usually easy to spot. Common symptoms include:
- ● Severe pain
- ● Pain that spreads away from the nail
- ● Swelling
- ● Bleeding
- ● Pus
- ● Warm or hard skin
- ● Strange smells
2. Treating the Nail
If your nail isn't infected, and you don't have diabetes, peripheral vascular disease, or any other condition that endangers your feet, you should be able to deal with the toenail on your own. Removing it is simple: soak your foot in a tub of warm water three to four times a day, and gently push the skin off the ingrown nail with a cotton ball or swab. If you need something to dull the pain, use an over-the-counter painkiller, such as ibuprofen or acetaminophen.
For ingrown nails that require professional treatment, most podiatrists recommend a procedure called nail avulsion. To do this, your podiatrist first numbs the toe with a local anaesthetic, surgically removes the ingrown nail, and then treats the infection with antibiotics. The procedure takes seven to ten days, and it takes up to four months for the nail to grow back.
For patients, who experience ingrown nails multiple times in the same spot, podiatrists sometimes recommend a modified form of avulsion to remove part of the nail permanently. Your doctor will surgically remove the ingrown nail and then spray the area with a chemical called phenol, which destroys the nail's formative part.
3. Preventing Further Ingrown Nails
Once you've removed the nail and your foot has healed, take the following steps to make sure that you never have another ingrown nail:
- ● Cut your nails in clear, straight lines. Always use a nail clipper; never tear loose nails off. For best results, only clip your nails immediately after taking a shower or bath.
- ● Avoiding cutting your toenails too short. Leave a little white space to ensure that they'll keep growing in the same pattern as before.
- ● Keep your feet clean and dry.
- ● Wear shoes and socks that give your toes room to breathe.
Do you suffer from ingrown toenails, fungi, or other foot-related problems? Want to learn more? Visit our website and our educational videos.