Ingrown Toenails

It’s just a simple fact that you may develop an ingrown toenail at some point during your life. That “some point” can really be any time. Some babies are born with a toenail that’s ingrown—likely the result of foot position in the womb—and this is a nail condition that can affect seniors as well.

Finding Relief from Ingrown Toenail Pain

Close-up of an ingrown toenail

We are going to look at why your toenail had become ingrown in a little bit, but you probably want to know how to relieve the pain one can cause and what can be done to fix an ingrown nail. Discomfort and inconvenience aren’t the only reason an ingrown toenail may need to be addressed, though.

In addition to pain, an ingrown toenail puts you at a higher risk for a potential infection. When the ingrown edge digs into the soft flesh flanking the nail, an opening is created that can enable microorganisms—including bacteria, fungus, and viruses—to enter the body. Infections caused by these tiny organisms are unwanted by otherwise healthy individuals, but they are particularly dangerous for those who have medical conditions that compromise the body’s immune system, like diabetes.

Conservative Ingrown Toenail Treatment

The pain or discomfort caused by an ingrown toenail is an obvious reason you will want to have the condition addressed. Fortunately, there are a handful of ways you can receive relief.

With regards to ingrown toenail treatment, we begin by assessing your situation to determine the best possible course of action. Not all cases of ingrown toenails are alike in their severity and root causes. Knowing these factors and other considerations (such as if you are diabetic or if the ingrown condition is recurrent) will be used to establish your treatment plan.

In mild cases, especially those that are caught at an early stage, you may wish to try caring for the condition at home by soaking the foot to soften the nail and then gently lifting the ingrown edge. Placing a bit of clean, waxed dental floss under the edge will encourage the toenail to grow above—and not into—the skin, 

as it should. Antibiotic ointment or cream, along with a fresh bandage, can reduce infection risk.

If you are reluctant to try handling the problem on your own, or have been unsuccessful in attempts to do so, 

you should come in to Sunshein Podiatry Associates for professional care. When the condition is caught early and there is no severe pain or sign of infection, we can trim the nail and keep it at a position where it’s comfortable for you. Our store will also have products that can aid your recovery.

Following conservative treatment, whether at home or in our office, it is usually recommended that you switch to either open-toed shoes or supportive sandals (not flip-flops) to keep pressure off the affected toe while it heals. Naturally, this will depend a bit on seasonal considerations. In colder weather, you would likely rather wear shoes with wide, deep toe boxes, instead of footwear that exposes your toes to the elements.

To address pain caused by an ingrown nail, we may prescribe or recommend medication, including over-the-counter varieties like acetaminophen, ibuprofen, or naproxen sodium. As always, be sure to check with our office if you have any questions or concerns about this. We can make sure you are taking the right dosage.

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Permanent Nail Removal Services

Now, some cases do require more than conservative treatment. In these instances—and especially when a toenail repeatedly becomes ingrown—we might recommend removal of either a portion or the entire affected nail. When the entire toenail needs to be removed, it is often best practice to make this a permanent condition. This is typically done by using a chemical to destroy the nail matrix, which keeps the toenail from growing back.

It might sound as though removing a toenail will be painful, but this is not the case. Anesthesia will be used to numb the area prior to the procedure.

How to Prevent an Ingrown Toenail

The best form of treatment for any medical issue—including ingrown toenails—is to take measures to prevent it from happening in the first place. With regards to ingrown toenail prevention, you should consider the following practices:

  • Always wear shoes that fit properly. There should be about a thumb’s width of space between the front of the shoe and your longest toe, and you should be able to wiggle your toes freely. If these aren’t applying to the shoes you’re wearing, pick another pair.
  • Protect your feet. If you need to move heavy objects on a frequent basis for your job, be sure to protect your feet with (well-fitting!) steel-toed work boots or safety shoes.
  • Clip your toenails the right way. Too often, ingrown nails develop when toenails are trimmed incorrectly. The best practice is to trim to the contour of your nail and avoid clipping them too short.

Ingrown toenail treatment is a service provided by our team here at Sunshein Podiatry Associates, but it’s certainly not the only one. In fact, we provide comprehensive treatment and professional services to address a wide range of foot and ankle issues. If you are suffering from pain or impaired function, contact us and find out what we can do to help you. Give us a call at (937) 435-7477 for more information or to request your appointment today!