With everything I treat, there is nothing that instills fear more than an ingrown toenail. This is usually from a bad encounter from when you were a child. Your doctor gave painful injections at the end of the toe. You only have bad memories of the encounter. Here’s the good news…
Things have changed.
That’s why if you even think you have an ingrown toenail, it is best to come into the office to get it checked. If we can catch it before it becomes infected, you may be able to get rid of your ingrown toenail permanently.
What Causes Ingrowing Toenails?
An ingrown toenail is when the side of the nail embeds into the adjacent skin. This causes the skin to become inflamed and painful. If left untreated, it also can become infected. With infection comes even more pain.
Ingrown toenails occur because of:
- Improper Nail Cutting
You may think you’re helping yourself by aggressively cutting your ingrown toenails. You are doing more harm than good. Most of the time, you aren’t able to get the ingrowing nail in its entirety. It creates a very sharp point of nail that starts to dig into the toe. Then it becomes infected and very painful.
- Wide Toenails
Other cases of ingrown toenails are not your fault. In fact, you can blame your parents for this one. You may have toenails that are too wide for your nailbed. You were born that way. You inherited from a parent who suffered from ingrown toenails herself. You may see a small bulge on either side of the nail. That’s how you know your nail is a little too wide. It may not hurt you, but at some point, it probably will.
- Curved Toenails
You may have nails that are excessively curved. If that’s the case, it’s the unfortunate luck of the draw. Toenails also naturally curve over time. This happens because the natural fat pad that supports the nail erodes with time. This causes the edges of the nails to curve and embed into the skin.
- Aggressive Pedicures
Pedicure technicians want to make sure that your nails look pretty. After all, that’s why you get a pedicure. They often push back your cuticles to achieve that. This causes trauma and can result in an infection. If your nail is damaged, many pedicure technicians will recommend an acrylic nail. An acrylic nail is not flexible and often embeds into the skin and causes an ingrown toenail.
- Trauma to the Toe
When you stub your toe, it can affect the toenail. You probably already had the predisposition for developing an ingrown toenail. Trauma to the toe can push the nail into the skin. This will start the inflammation, pain, and potential infection.
- Improper Foot Mechanics
Foot mechanics can play a role in the development of an ingrown toenail. When you walk, you may roll off the side of your big toe. This will push the big toe against your second toe. There will be added pressure on your great toe and the skin can push into the nail. This can be the cause of the ingrown toenail.
What Does and Ingrown Toenail Look and Feel Like?
There are times when you have an ingrown toenail and it doesn’t cause pain at all. But if the nail becomes inflamed or infected, it can become very painful. If you have an ingrown toenail, you may encounter the following symptoms:
- Pain on the sides of the toenail
- Redness and swelling surrounding the nail plate
- Raw, painful granulation tissue at the nail margin or nail fold
- Bleeding or pus coming from the sides of the toenail
Will Ingrowing Toenails Heal Themselves?
You may find that the pain of your ingrown toenail varies. This can because of wearing particular shoes or doing certain activities. This doesn’t mean that your ingrown toenail has gone away. It means that it is becoming more or less inflamed based on what you’re doing. Eventually your ingrown toenail will become more inflamed, infected, and painful. That is why you should not hold out hope that your ingrown toenail will fix itself. Give us a call before it becomes infected so your ingrown toenail can be treated permanently.
How Do You Fix an Ingrown Toenail?
Non-Surgical Treatment of Ingrown Toenails
You want to catch an ingrown toenail before it gets swollen and infected. This way, we often can manage it without surgery. This treatment includes:
- Foot soaks in Epsom salt and warm water
- Keeping triple antibiotic ointment on the toe
- Making sure your shoes have enough room for your toes
- Taking an OTC pain reliever such as acetaminophen or ibuprofen
With this treatment you should feel a quick improvement. If 2-3 days go by and you haven’t had any relief, it won’t get better on its own. Contact my office for an immediate appointment.
Surgical Treatment of Ingrown Toenails
If you have an infected ingrown toenail, ingrown toenail surgery may be your best option for a quick recovery. A nail avulsion is also recommended if you suffer from recurrent ingrown toenails. The procedure is a quick, in-office surgery. You don't even need a special appointment for it.
I numb your toe with an injection of local anesthetic at the base of the toe. In most cases, I only remove a small section of the side of the nail plate. This way, your nail doesn’t look any different.
I may recommend a permanent procedure if your ingrown toenail is recurrent. This only differs by adding a medication to the nail matrix of the removed section of the toenail. This medicine chemically cauterizes the cells of the nail matrix that grow the nail edge. This will make the treatment for your ingrown toenail permanent. Wouldn’t it be great not to worry about ingrown toenails again?
Sometimes there is trauma to the toenail. In these cases I may recommend a procedure to remove the entire nail plate. I may also recommend this type of complete nail avulsion if the toenail is thick and painful. After numbing the toe with local anesthesia, the entire nail is removed. I generally don't like to treat the nail matrix to permanently affect the nail. I only recommend permanent complete nail removal if you have persistant toenail pain.
Is Surgery for Ingrown Toenail Painful?
I find that people are very afraid of having surgery for ingrown toenail removal. Here’s the truth…it’s not that bad. The injections of local anesthetic to numb the toe is the only uncomfortable part of having toenail surgery. I do this as quickly as possible. After the toe is numb, you will feel nothing. After the procedure, when the numbing wears off, you may feel some throbbing in the toe. But most people report that they have immediate pain relief after the procedure. Don’t let the fear of a painful ingrown toenail surgery stop you from coming in to get your ingrown toenail treated!
When Should You Go to the Doctor for an Ingrown Toenail in Houston, TX?
The best time to get your ingrown toenail checked is right now! The longer you wait, the greater the chance of infection. Contact Houston podiatrist Dr. Andrew Schneider for an immediate appointment. You’ll be amazed how quick and easy the solution for your ingrown toenail will be.