When Should I See My Podiatrist About an Ingrown Toenail?

Ingrown toenails don’t exactly sound like a life-threatening emergency. Sure they’re painful, but they’re not often front of mind for many people. Yet, here at Step Lively Foot and Ankle Centers, we often think “if only they would have come in sooner, this ingrown toenail wouldn’t be as bad off as it is today!” It is often helpful to know when the appropriate time to seek professional help is.

What is an ingrown toenail?
An ingrown toenail is when the edge of your toenail – typically on your big toe – grows into the skin of your nail bed. As it continues to grow, it will push itself further into the toe causing a great deal of pain, especially when walking or standing. The site is often red, swollen, and irritated. If it progresses, it can cause a black bruise at the edge of the nail near the site of the puncture. If left untreated, it could even become infected.

What causes ingrown toenails?
Ingrown toenails are most commonly caused by improper foot care. Cutting your toenails too short or rounding the corners of the nails increases the likelihood of an ingrown nail. They can also be brought about by wearing shoes that are too small. Athletes, nurses, teachers, and anyone else who is consistently on their feet are at a higher risk for ingrown toenails as well.

Can’t I just treat it at home?
Sometimes you can treat an ingrown toenail at home, but only in its earliest stages. We still recommend calling your podiatrist to have it looked at. Here are some home remedies you can try while you wait for your appointment:

  • Soak your feet in warm water and Epsom salts for 10 minutes each day. This will soften your nail.
  • Apply an antibiotic ointment around the affected area to reduce swelling.

If the nail has embedded itself into your toe, never attempt to cut it. It will be impossible to reach the right part of the nail and you could cause a deeper wound, making matters worse. Book an appointment with your podiatrist to remove the nail.

When should I seek medical attention for my ingrown toenail?

  • If there is any sign of infection, then your situation is long past the point of being able to be cured by over-the-counter medications or home remedies.  
  • If you’ve tried a home remedy and it didn’t help or the pain got worse, please see a foot doctor.
  • If you have diabetes, circulation issues, or peripheral nerve damage, it is increasingly important to see your podiatrist to prevent a hard-to-treat infection.

What will the doctor do to treat my ingrown toenail?
If there is an infection present, our doctors will likely prescribe antibiotics to treat it. If the nail is very deep in the toe, surgery may be necessary, during which the sides or entirety of the affected nail are removed. Our team of skilled podiatrists will ensure that through treatment, your toes will feel better! Need to schedule an appointment? Contact any of our offices in Gahanna, Columbus, Dublin, and Pickerington, OH!

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