Ingrown toenails are probably the most common foot problem we see in our office. And, unfortunately, people have a lot of false information about ingrown toenails. But with proper diagnosis and treatment, we can correct this painful problem.
What are Ingrown Toenails?
An ingrown toenail quite simply is a painful condition. It develops when one or both sides of your nail curls down. This lets it invade the skin on the sides or tip of your toe. Any toe can develop ingrown toenails. But usually it’s your great toe that’s affected.
Symptoms of Ingrown Toenails
At first, an ingrown toenail will be a little red and irritated. But, without treatment, you could feel burning or see your skin folds thicken. Sometimes, the pain is worsen when you wear shoes, but that’s not always the case.
Over time, an ingrown toenail will progress. This means that the nail keeps advancing into your skin. Eventually, it will cut through the flesh. At this point, you’ll experience more pain. And, the cut will be vulnerable to the bacteria and fungus which your nail plate would normally keep out. When that happens, you end up with an infected ingrown toenail.
But the problems don’t stop there! With continued neglect, your skin folds will get more inflamed. Then, if you stay away from the podiatrist, you could end up with large, bulbous “cherry red” granulomas. Even worse? The infection may deepen. It could even invade your underlying bones. Luckily, we can easily correct this complex cycle. But first we must understand why you get ingrown toenails in the first place!
Ingrown Toenail Risk Factors
The most common cause of ingrown toenails is improper cutting or “picking” of toenails. All nails should be cut straight across and allowed to grow out to the edge of the nail fold. Because of the fleshy nature of their toes, some patients are predisposed to tissue overgrowth on the nail.
Other common causes include fungal thickening of the toenail and bone spurs hidden under the nail plate. In both cases the nail is thickened and tented up in the center, thereby pressuring the sides down and into the surrounding skin folds. Bunion deformities, whereby the big toe leans against the second toe, may also cause irritation on the side of both toenails and lead to ingrown toenails.
Treatment Options for Ingrown Nails
Cutting a “V” into the center of the toenail has never, in our opinion, helped to alleviate pressure on the nail. Remember, the nail plate is rigid and will not simply bend out of the skin by cutting a wedge in the center. Furthermore, we have never found over-the-counter ingrown nail medication to be effective. In fact, both of the remedies only serve to delay proper treatment and increase the risk of infection.
The correction of an ingrown toenail is usually quite simple and can be done painlessly in the office with local anesthesia. We can remove the offending portion of the nail in such a way that we almost always deliver a permanent correction. Which means you won’t have to keep returning to the office in pain. That’s why, if you suffer with an ingrown nail, seek a permanent solution right away. The sooner you seek treatment, the lower your risk for infection and other ingrown toenail complications!