An ingrown toenail is an incredibly common source of pain and discomfort. It might seem like a minor inconvenience, but it should not be ignored. Left unchecked, symptoms can grow progressively worse, ending in chronic pain, open ulcers, and potentially life-threatening infections.
So, when it comes to ingrown toenails, you should never leave your health to chance. Rocky Mountain Foot & Ankle’s experienced team of board-certified podiatrists could help you relieve ingrown toenail pain and eliminate complications, letting you resume your ordinary life without having to worry about the risk of infection.
Understanding Ingrown Toenails
An ingrown toenail is a common foot condition. Ingrown toenails begin to develop when the corner of a toenail—typically on the big toe—begins to grow downward, back into the skin. This condition is sometimes caused by genetics and preexisting disease, but it can just as easily be attributed to trimming a nail too close to the cuticle.
Diagnosing an ingrown toenail is usually very easy. Symptoms may include:
- Pain and tenderness around the affected toenail
- Inflamed skin
Some ingrown toenails can feel hard or swollen. While this is not always cause for concern, an untreated ingrown toenail can grow deep into the skin, letting pathogens enter and creating a fertile breeding ground for bacteria.
The Risks of Ingrown Toenail Complications
Ingrown toenails do not heal on their own. Some can be treated at home, but simple remedies can prove ineffective if complications appear likely. You should consider consulting a podiatrist before even attempting at-home treatment if:
- You have diabetes
- Your legs feel numb
- You have been diagnosed with circulatory problems
People who have diabetes, for instance, have a higher risk of infection and could inadvertently injure themselves in the course of self-care. However, anyone who believes they have an ingrown toenail should not delay in calling our podiatrist. This is because ingrown toenail-related complications could include the following.
Infection can cause additional complications, many of which are very visible. Common symptoms include:
- Pus or liquid around the ingrown toenail
- Increased pain
- A feeling of warmth in or around the toe
Many infections can cause complications far worse than an ordinary ingrown toenail. In some rare cases, an infection can penetrate the bone, causing full-body symptoms that can put patients in a near-constant state of pain and malaise.
An infected ingrown toenail could also lead to a condition called gangrene. Gangrene, in simple terms, is the death of tissue caused by decreased blood flow or a serious bacterial infection. It most commonly affects the arms and legs, but it can be diagnosed in the toes, too.
Since gangrene can spread and begin consuming other healthy tissue, it always necessitates a rapid medical response. If the decay spreads too far or penetrates too deep, patients could lose their toe or, in a worst-case scenario, their entire foot.
People with conditions like diabetes have an increased risk of developing gangrene-related complications as a result of an infected ingrown toenail.
Treating an Ingrown Toenail
Rocky Mountain Foot & Ankle assesses every ingrown toenail to identify each patient’s unique needs. Common treatments include:
- Sanitizing and dressing the toenail
- Recommending splints and orthotic devices to straighten a deformed toe and prevent chronic or recurring complications
- Using antibiotics to treat a low-grade infection
- Surgically removing the entire toenail
While most ingrown toenails do not need professional care, Meridian and Caldwell-area residents who are experiencing unusual pain or infection-related symptoms should schedule an appointment as soon as possible.