Ingrown Toenails

What are the causes for your ingrown toenail?

You may be more at risk if your parents or grandparents suffered with ingrown toenails, as they are commonly caused by heredity. More often than not, ingrown toenails occur when not cutting your toenails properly.  When you cut into the corners, “yank” out the edges, or pick on your toenails and pull off the nail edge, you are left with a jagged-edged nail. As your nail starts to grow out, that jagged edge can cut into your skin and develop into an ingrown toenail and possibly become infected.

An ingrown toenail can also occur from bumping your toe or dropping something heavy onto it.  Your toe can become swollen causing your nail to grow into the skin. An infection in your toenail, such as a fungus infection causes your nail to grow thick and crooked.  As it grows crookedly, it can grow into the skin.

Footwear also plays a role in causing ingrown toenails. Shoes that squeeze or put pressure on your toes are not healthy for your feet.  As your toes get squeezed together, the skin can be pressed against your nail and develop into an ingrown toenail. If the nail has nowhere to grow, it will dig into your skin. Your nail then begins to cut into the surrounding skin often resulting in your toe becoming swollen, red, and very painful.


How do we diagnose and treat ingrown toenails?

If we see that your toe is swollen, red, or has any blood or pus oozing from the nail, we know it is most likely an ingrown toenail. Of course, it will also be very painful if we touch the edge or corner of your toenail.

The most important thing for you to know is treatment for an ingrown toenail does not require hospitalization. We can treat your ingrown toenail in our office allowing you to return to work the same day. We often use a local anesthetic, similar to what the dentist uses, to slightly numb your toe. We clear out the edge where the nail is growing into the skin to allow any infection to drain, which often provides considerable pain relief. It is similar to having a sliver in your finger. Once you pull that sliver out, the pain subsides very quickly.

Sometimes our patients complain that they keep dealing with their ingrown toenail problem and want to permanently take care of it.  If you have a recurring ingrown toenail problem, we can perform a very simple surgical procedure to treat the problem. We would numb your toe, trim the corner of the nail that is cutting into your flesh, and put a little medicine right by the root to burn it.  Many of our patients who have had this procedure wish they had done it sooner and not had to deal with so much pain and suffering.


Why is it important to get treatment?

We often treat patients who have waited so long to treat an ingrown toenail that they hobble into our office. If you leave your ingrown toenail untreated, it will only get worse. You may have difficulty putting on a shoe, trouble walking, or even have difficulty going to work. If you have diabetes, an untreated toenail can lead to a severe toe infection and other complications. You may need antibiotics, hospitalization, or if blood poisoning sets in, an unfortunate amputation of part of your foot. Always remember that an untreated ingrown toenail is much worse for a patient with diabetes or poor circulation.