The discomfort of an ingrown toenail can be tough to ignore. But in most cases, it isn’t cause for concern. Even so, there are specific situations that should prompt you to schedule an appointment with a specialist.
Our team at Premier Foot and Ankle Center deals with a wide range of issues, even those that seem minor, like an ingrown toenail. While it’s true this common foot problem usually isn’t serious, issues can arise that warrant a trip to our office for treatment.
How to recognize an ingrown toenail
Ingrown toenails are usually pretty easy to spot. They often affect the big toe, and they typically have two primary causes: improper toenail trimming or shoes that fit incorrectly.
When you cut your nails at a curve or too short, they may start growing into the tender flesh surrounding the nails. This problem can also arise when you wear shoes that put extra pressure on your toes.
In most cases, it’s easy to detect the signs of an ingrown toenail because it’s painful on the side of the toenail. In addition to pain, it’s common to have redness, swelling, or tenderness in the area.
What to do about ingrown toenails
Ingrown toenails usually cause pain and discomfort, but that doesn’t necessarily mean you need to schedule an appointment. Instead, you might find relief with home care treatments, such as:
- Soaking your feet in warm water for 15-20 minutes, 3-4 times each day
- Trying to gently lift the clean toenail with waxed dental floss or fresh cotton
- Applying antibiotic cream to the area
- Taking over-the-counter pain relievers
- Wearing loose-fitting or open-toed shoes
But there are also times ingrown toenails require professional treatment.
When to see a doctor
There are two situations that you should never ignore if you have an ingrown toenail.
Your symptoms worsen
If your ingrown toenail symptoms get worse instead of better, see one of our podiatrists, especially if the symptoms spread or include losing pus or blood — both signs of an infection.
You have circulation problems or diabetes
Perhaps most importantly, don’t wait to seek professional treatment for an ingrown toenail if you have any conditions affecting blood flow to your feet.
Circulatory problems significantly increase your risk of serious complications for any foot issues, even those that seem minor, like an ingrown toenail. That’s because poor blood flow to the feet makes it more difficult to heal and fight infection.
To make matters worse, diabetes can also lead to nerve damage in the feet, making it harder to notice foot problems in the earliest stages because you can’t feel them.
In these situations, an ingrown toenail can become incredibly serious, even penetrating underlying bone and leading to bone infection. This grave complication can jeopardize your health and life, putting you at risk of gangrene and amputation.
Fortunately, you can reduce your risk of ingrown toenails by wearing properly fitting shoes, trimming your nails straight across, and checking your feet regularly for signs of a problem, especially if you have diabetes.
Are you unsure what to do about your ingrown toenail? Contact us to schedule a consultation at our office in Worcester or Webster, Massachusetts, today.