Don’t Let Painful Ingrown Toenails Slow Your Steps
This common foot condition can be painlessly treated
When the corner or side of your toenail grows into the soft flesh surrounding your toes, it may become painful, red, swollen, warm to the touch, and infected. This is a common condition referred to as an ingrown toenail, onychocryptosis.
Ingrown toenails are most likely to occur on your big toe but can appear on any toe. The ingrown nail curves into the flesh and irritates the skin. In some cases, the ingrown nail causes the area to become infected, producing pus, drainage, and a foul odor. Even if signs of infection are not immediately present, the nail curving downward into the skin increases the likelihood of an infection.
What Causes Ingrown Toenails?
Some people rarely (or never) experience an ingrown toenail, while others have repeated episodes. There are several causes of ingrown nails. Some can be prevented, but others cannot.
If you have diabetes, peripheral vascular disease, nerve damage to your leg or foot, or other medical conditions that restrict blood flow to your feet, you have an elevated risk of complications due to ingrown toenails. If you have any of these medical conditions, seek treatment as soon as symptoms appear. For this group, infections and complications can escalate quickly, so speedy treatment is recommended.
Patients without medical conditions can also experience ingrown toenails. Wearing shoes that crowd your toenails will increase your likelihood of an occurrence.
Cutting or trimming your toenails too short, unevenly, or not straight across will also increase your likelihood of ingrown nails.
Genetics and heredity also play a role. Some people have unusually curved toenails that are prone to ingrown episodes.
Trauma to the foot or toe, including stubbing your toe, having an object falling on your toe, or repeated pressure or kicking, such as in soccer, can also cause an ingrown nail.
Complications Resulting From Ingrown Toenails
Ingrown toenails can be uncomfortable, and it’s not wise to leave them untreated. An ingrown toenail and the resulting infections may infect the underlying bone, sometimes leading to serious bone infections, and amputation of the toe.
For people with diabetes, complications can be especially harsh. For these people, minor injuries to the feet, including ingrown toenails, may not heal properly. The resulting infection can create an open sore or foot ulcer. This condition may require surgery to prevent gangrene.
When to see a Doctor for Your Ingrown Toenail
While ingrown toenails are minor incidences for many people, if you experience any of these symptoms, call your doctor immediately:
- Significant discomfort in your toe or the surrounding area
- Pus, discharge, warmth, or redness that seems to be spreading
- If you have diabetes or have another condition that causes reduced blood flow or sensation to your feet
If you’re battling toe pain, give Harford Lower Extremity Specialists a call at 410-836-0131 or click the Schedule An Appointment button below.