podiatrist treating ingrown toenailPainful. Nasty. Unsightly. No one likes ingrown toenails, yet they remain a common problem among many people. But what causes them? What can you do when you develop one? Let’s take a closer look.

What Causes Ingrown Toenails?

Ingrown toenails are nails that have grown into the flesh surrounding the nail bed. This happens most often in the big toes but can happen to the other toenails as well. This can occur for several reasons, including:

  • Wearing tight shoes or socks. Tight-fitting shoes or socks can put pressure on the toes, causing the nails to grow into the flesh. This is often seen in athletes who wear tight shoes during their sports activities.
  • Trauma to the nail. Any kind of trauma to the nail, such as stubbing your toe or dropping something on your foot, can force the nail to grow into the flesh.
  • Improper toenail trimming. If you do not trim your toenails properly, the nails can become ingrown as they grow back. This is often seen in people who round the corners of their nails when trimming them or who trim them too short.
  • Nail abnormalities. Specific nail abnormalities, such as curved nails or thick nails, can also contribute to ingrown toenails.

What Can I Do About an Ingrown Toenail?

If you’re met with the unfortunate situation of dealing with an ingrown toenail, there are a few things you can do. Home remedies can sometimes be the easier way to fix anything, but that’s not always the case. Here are a few home remedies you can try to treat your ingrown toenail:

  • Soak the foot. Soaking your inflicted foot in warm water and Epsom salts can help to reduce the inflammation and pain caused by an ingrown toenail. Do this a few times a day for 20 minutes at a time.
  • Wear loose-fitting shoes. Wearing shoes that fit well and don’t put pressure on the toes can help prevent ingrown toenails from occurring. It can also help lessen the pressure put on your foot when walking and make the pain more tolerable.
  • Bandage the toe. Bandaging your affected toe can help cushion it and prevent further irritation. Make sure to change the bandage regularly to keep the area clean and dry.
  • DO NOT perform at-home “surgery.” While ingrown toenails can be painful and sometimes tempting to fix on your own, it’s not worth the risk. Trying to dig the nail out yourself can lead to infection and further complications. In these cases, it’s best to leave it to our professionals.

When to See a Podiatrist

There are certain cases where home remedies aren’t enough, and you’ll need to come to see our podiatrists. These cases include the following.

Symptoms Have Not Improved Within Three to Four Days

If you’ve been following the home remedies for a few days but aren’t seeing any improvement, it’s time to get into our office. Similarly, if you’ve been experiencing symptoms for this long and have noticed worsening pain, redness, or swelling, you should also seek medical attention.

The Affected Area Has Become Painful, Red, or Swollen

If the affected area has become painful, red, or swollen, this could be a sign of infection. In these cases, you’ll need to see a doctor right away to prevent the infection from spreading.

You Have Diabetes

If you have diabetes, you’re at a higher risk for developing complications from an ingrown toenail. For this reason, seeing our podiatrists as soon as you notice any symptoms is extremely important.

Treatment Options Available From a Foot Doctor

If home remedies and over-the-counter medications haven’t worked, our doctors may recommend one of the following treatment options:

  • Antibiotics. If you have an infection, our doctors may prescribe antibiotics to help clear it up. These can be in the form of pills, ointments, or injections.
  • Nail lift or removal. In some cases, our doctors may need to lift the ingrown nail or remove part of it to relieve the pain and pressure. This is typically done very quickly in our office through the use of a local anesthetic and is usually a lot less painful than the ingrown toenail itself.

Are You Suffering From an Ingrown Toenail?

Don’t put relief off any longer. Reach out to the professionals at Third Coast Foot and Ankle today to schedule an appointment. We’ll help you find the treatment option that’s best for you and your ingrown toenail so that you can get back on your feet and doing what you love as soon as possible.