If you suddenly notice persistent throbbing and worsening pain in your big toe, take a look — you may have an ingrown toenail. Visual cues that indicate possible infection include swelling and redness, and the painful area can even feel hot.
Though ingrown toenails can be treatable at home if the symptoms aren’t severe, it’s best to have your toe checked out by an experienced podiatrist. The stellar team of podiatrists at South Florida Foot & Ankle Centers cares for you with expertise in treatments that’s likely to well exceed your expectations.
Why do ingrown toenails develop?
When you have an ingrown toenail, the nail’s corner or side edge starts to grow into your skin, which feels awful. If the skin breaks, you’re at risk for infection. Big toes are most often affected by an ingrown nail, but it can happen in other toes.
Most ingrown toenails are caused by cutting your toenail improperly. Instead of trimming straight across, you might round the corners or simply trim the nail too short. Tight shoes — and even tight socks — can also lead to an ingrown toenail.
Some individuals are simply more prone to having an ingrown nail problem because they inherited a predisposition, while a traumatic injury to your toe — like when you’re playing sports — can also make you more likely to get one.
What to do when home treatments for an ingrown toenail don’t work
You may be able to prevent your ingrown toenail from worsening by doing home treatment, including soaking your foot several times per day in warm water with Epsom salts. While you soak your toe, it may help to very gently push your skin away from your toenail with a cotton ball.
If you notice more intense pain, inflammation, redness, or warmth near your nail, it’s time to seek professional care. Our team can keep your ingrown toenail from getting worse, or address an infection if they find one.
Your podiatrist has a range of customizable treatments based on the severity of your symptoms and whether an infection has developed:
- Oral antibiotics to eradicate toenail infection
- Over-the-counter pain relievers
- Daily application of antibiotic cream to guard against infection
- Careful removal of a portion of your nail, along with some nearby skin
- Complete removal of your nail, done in-office and easily tolerated with anesthetic
Remember, it typically takes a number of months for your nail to regrow, so it’s important to protect it during this period.
We can’t emphasize enough the importance of proper treatment for an ingrown nail. There’s a very real chance of an untreated infection spreading to your bone, which leads to bone tissue death.
An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure
If you’ve suffered an ingrown toenail, chances are you never want another one. We talk to you about preventing recurrences, and give you tips on how to lower your risk:
- Be religious about cutting you toenails straight across, and never shorter than your toe tip (we can provide education about this)
- Wear proper footwear if you’re playing sports, lifting heavy objects, and the like, to protect your toe and nail from trauma
- Wear roomy shoes and socks
- Keep your feet clean and dry
Also, ingrown toenails and other foot injuries are especially dangerous for people with diabetes; if you have diabetes, check your feet daily for signs of an ingrown toenail or any other easy-to-miss injury.
We’re here to help if you find yourself with an ingrown toenail. Our practice offers early-morning and evening appointments, as well as Saturday time slots, for your convenience.
Call the South Florida Foot & Ankle Centers office that’s closest to you — in Royal Palm Beach, Lake Worth, Palm Beach Gardens, or Belle Glade, Florida — to schedule a consultation with a podiatrist, or book one online.