You would think that toenails have a pretty easy job—grow slowly, and only in one direction. However, sometimes nails take a bit of a detour, curving and digging into the surrounding skin along the side or corner. While this painful affliction is unfortunately quite common (it’s estimated that around 1 in 5 adults have experienced it at least once), the good news is that treatment often provides quick, simple relief.
When Toenails Dig In
Ingrown toenails can really hurt! You’ll probably also notice redness, swelling, and tenderness right around the impact zone, or even pus if there’s an infection.
You definitely want to take care of the problem before the nail has a chance to break this skin, as this provides an opening for bacteria and/or fungus and can quickly lead to an infection of the nail or surrounding tissues. Infected
Left untreated, a severe infection could even reach the bone. If you are diabetic or pre-diabetic, your infection risk is especially elevated.
Why Some Nails Get Ingrown
There’s no single cause for ingrown nails; often it can be traced to a combination of factors, including:
- Genetics. Some people are just naturally more susceptible to this condition than others, usually due to nails that are especially flat or especially curved.
- Bad trimming technique. Cutting too short, too often, or too curved can facilitate a problem. Leave a little length and go straight across, rather than rounding the corners. If you trim after a shower, your nails will be softer and less likely to split.
- Tight shoes. Give your toes some wiggle room so that their nails aren’t constantly being pressed and pressured.
- A specific injury, such as a stubbed toe.
Can I Fix My Ingrown Nail Myself?
There are certainly some things you can do to help minimize your pain (such as soaking your feet in warm water for 15 minutes or using pain relievers.
Some people have used techniques like placing cotton or floss under their nails to help raise the nail and get it to grow outward. While such methods may occasionally be successful, we generally discourage their use, since they often don’t work and can actually increase your infection risk.
Never attempt to cut out an ingrown portion of a nail yourself. This “bathroom surgery” can be extremely risky and often makes the problem much worse.
Professional Care for Ingrown Toenails
At North Austin Foot & Ankle Institute, we can remove the portion of the nail digging into the skin via a same-day, in-office procedure. In the easiest cases, we may even be able to gently snip back the offending corner of your nail; more typically, we’ll numb the toe with a small amount of local anesthesia and carefully remove the ingrown edge of the nail. Afterward, we’ll apply a gentle chemical that helps prevent the problem from returning, and bandage the toe. If there’s an infection, we’ll prescribe an antibiotic as well.
Among the many benefits:
- The procedure is pain free (due to the anesthetic) and pain relief begins immediately
- The success rate is greater than 90%, and is especially effective if treatment is sought before an infection occurs.
- It only requires a single, simple office visit (no hospitalization).
- Most people are able to return to normal activities the very next day.
If you’re struggling with an ingrown toenail, please do not continue to suffer quietly! We can get you in for an appointment (sometimes even same-day) and help you gain immediate relief. You really have no reason to wait, so please give us a call at 512-593-2949 to set a time with Dr. Keith McSpadden at our office in Cedar Park or Round Rock, TX.