Having an ingrown toenail is fairly common. In fact, 20% of people who see a doctor for foot pain or other problems have one. Just imagine how many people suffer from this condition without ever seeing a doctor! Unfortunately, if you ignore your ingrown toenail and wait too long to get professional help, serious complications could arise. What starts out as mild discomfort can turn into a bone-deep infection or even tissue decay—especially if you have diabetes. Next time you notice the early warning signs of ingrown toenails, call Progressive Podiatry!
Wait, What’re the Signs?
If you’ve had an ingrown toenail before, you can probably recognize the symptoms early on. Normally, the warning signs come in three different stages. With the first being pain, inflammation, and irritation along the nail bed. This happens because your toenail is actually growing into the delicate skin of one (or both) sides. During the second stage, new tissue (also called granuloma) starts to grow at the edges of your ingrown toenail. This tissue may be red, oozing, and producing pus—in addition to becoming increasingly painful. By the time you reach the third stage, your skin has chronic inflammation, oozing pus, and the granuloma has started to grow over your toenail.
At this point, the infection is unlikely to heal on its own. The longer you let it go untreated, the more likely it is to spread to other areas. Therefore, we recommend that you make an appointment during the early stages of an ingrown toenail. Especially if you have a weakened immune system, diabetes, or other condition that could complicate treatment.
How Bad Can an Ingrown Toenail Be?
Apart from the symptoms we just described, it can get worse if the infection spreads throughout the entire toe. You might notice redness and pus under the whole toenail. Along with foot ulcers, open sores, or a loss of blood flow to the affect toe(s)/foot. By this point, the infection may have even spread to the bone. If you find yourself feeling frequently tired, feverish, or you notice signs of cellulitis, you should contact a doctor right away.
Because people with diabetes may already have circulatory issues with their feet, recovering from an ingrown toenail naturally takes longer. They might also have a harder time detecting an infection in the first place, due to a lack of nerve sensitivity. So, while we can usually treat this problem by removing a portion or the nail or the entire toenail. In cases of severe infection, amputation may be required.
Is There Any Way to Prevent Them?
Well, that really depends on what’s causing your ingrown toenails in the first place. If you’re wearing shoes that are too tight, then switching to your proper shoe size and/or wearing custom orthotics should go a long way toward prevention. In some cases, sweaty feet contribute to ingrown toenails. Therefore, you should wear properly ventilated socks and be prepared to change them frequently during physical activities. Don’t be afraid to use antiperspirant or antifungal powders created specifically for feet, either.
Many people contribute to this problem by improperly trimming their toenails. If you cut your nails too short and/or curve the edges into the sides of your toe, you could actually be inviting ingrown toenails. We recommend cutting your nails straight across on a regular basis. By using clean clippers and other tools at home, you can also risk catching infections from a less-than-perfect pedicure.
Unfortunately, some people are just genetically predisposed to this common ailment. Certain toenail shapes are more likely to develop ingrown toenails—like the dreaded “pincer” nails. If this runs in your family, or you have another medical condition that increases your risk of infection, see a podiatrist at the first sign of trouble.
At Progressive Podiatry, we’re very fortunate to have an ingrown toenail specialist on staff. Dr. Jurd-Sadler can relieve symptoms of this common foot complaint, while avoiding serious complications. She also works to provide diabetic footcare, for those most at risk of growing infections. Next time you notice an ingrown toenail, don’t ignore it! Call us for fast relief and reduced risk of return infection.