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When Does an Ingrown Toenail Require Help From Your Podiatrist?

When Does an Ingrown Toenail Require Help From Your Podiatrist?

If you’re dealing with the pain or discomfort of an ingrown toenail, you’re far from alone. In fact, toenails that curve downward into the skin account for about 20% of podiatry office visits in the United States. But do you always need to seek medical care? 

At Premier Foot and Ankle Center & Elite Upper Extremity and Plastic Surgery in Worcester, Webster, and Leominster, Massachusetts, our team of experts offers conservative and surgical treatments for ingrown toenails. We can also help you determine whether medical care is necessary.

Take a few minutes to learn more about this common ailment, including when it’s time to seek professional care.

Ingrown toenails 101

When the side, top, or corner of one of your toenails grows downward into the nail groove or the soft skin tissue along the nail borders, it’s considered ingrown. While the big toe is most often affected, any toenail can become ingrown. 

Once that happens, you may notice that the skin on your toe feels hard, red, tender to the touch, and swollen. If the issue progresses, it can become painful and infected. In some cases, the pain makes it difficult to walk or fall asleep.

Early on, an ingrown toenail may simply be hard, swollen, and tender to the touch. Without proper care, however, it can become infected and progress into a painful and persistent problem that makes it hard to wear shoes or walk without wincing in discomfort. 

While anyone can experience an ingrown toenail, a few factors increase your risk, including:

What to do about your ingrown toenail

An ingrown toenail may not need medical attention, especially if it’s only slightly ingrown. You might also turn the issue around by addressing the early symptoms at home. 

If your ingrown toenail is new and only mildly bothersome, consider these self-care steps:

These efforts can help reduce any pain or discomfort and lower your risk of infection. 

Seeking help from your podiatrist

If your ingrown toenail is particularly bothersome or homecare steps haven’t helped, it’s time to come into our office for an exam. Doing so sooner rather than later can help protect you from complications, such as a worsening infection and increasing pain.

Signs of an infection that may need treatment include darkening redness in the area, heat coming from the toe, and pus draining along the nail’s edge. Treatment for the infection can help prevent the need for surgery, should an infection spread to the bone of your toe.

Depending on the specifics of your symptoms, our team may recommend:

If your ingrown nail issues continue or keep returning, we may recommend surgery. During this minor, in-office procedure, part of the ingrown nail and a small area of skin will be removed. Less commonly, the entire nail needs to be removed.

To learn more about ingrown toenails or get the care you need, call our location nearest you or request an appointment through our website today.

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