The only thing worse than an ingrown toenail, is an infected ingrown toenail. An ingrown toenail is a common condition that occurs when the edges of your toenail grow into the surrounding skin. In fact, if you’re an adult over the age of 21 living in the U.S., you may have experienced one already.
Ingrown toenails can lead to pain, swelling and sometimes infection. While they occur most often in the big toe, any toe can be impacted. Ingrown toenails are bothersome on their own, but an infected ingrown toenails can cause more acute symptoms.
Recognizing an infected ingrown toenail
An ingrown toenail should be monitored closely to prevent infection. In most cases, at home treatment proves to be an effective remedy. However, certain symptoms may warrant a trip to a local foot specialist.
If you experience any of the following, take action immediately to receive prompt attention from a medical professional:
- nail that is painful to touch
- intense pressure or throbbing
- warmth around the surrounding area
- pus build up or oozing
- a bad odor
Medical solutions for an infected ingrown toenail
Visiting a doctor is the best next step once you suspect that your toenail is infected. The doctor will examine the area and decide whether your suspicions are correct.
Based on the severity of the infection, the foot specialist you visit will determine the appropriate course to take. The doctor will also identify any health conditions that make your body less equipped to fight off infection. For example, any damage to your blood vessels could contribute to poor circulation. Poor circulation slows down the healing process and prevents an infection from healing on its own. Diabetes is another health condition that inhibits a sufficient response from your immune system.
Based on your examination, the doctor will proceed with any of the following options to treat the ingrown toenail:
- Applying an antibiotic ointment
- Cutting away the toenail edges and any folds on the toenail’s sides in a process called a toenail avulsion
- Completely removing the nail and the bed
- Separating the nail from the skin with a cotton wool to prevent it from growing into the skin again
- Removing the cells in the nail bed to prevent regeneration of the nail
Whatever decision your healthcare provider makes, it’s safe to say that the best remedy to an infected ingrown toenail is to not get one at all! Let’s start you on the right foot by examining some of the common contributors to this condition.
Causes of an ingrown toenail
An ingrown toenail can come from many sources. In some cases the condition is hereditary, but in other cases there are practices you can avoid to prevent it.
For instance, when cutting your toenails, be sure to cut straight across rather than angling around the shape of your toe. You should also be sure not to cut them too short or allow them to become too long.
The shoes you wear may also play a role in how your toenails grow. Improperly fitting shoes can force your toes into unnatural positions that encourage ingrown toenails.
Of course, there are factors outside of your control like injury. Simply stubbing your toe could lead to an infected ingrown toenail. Moreover, if you are involved in activities that have a high rate of injury, you may also increase your chances.
Activities like soccer that demand repetitive kicking or even dancing which require intense use of your feet each pose a level of risk.
Perhaps the best advice we can give, is to continue to live your life, enjoy your favorite activities and exercise caution. If you happen to experience an toenail infection, we’re just a call and consultation away.
For all of your foot and ankle needs, Doctor Benjamin Tehrani is here to help. Give us a call today and schedule an appointment at Kings Point Foot & Ankle.