Whether you flaunt your feet in summer sandals or hide them away in winter boots, those toes need proper care. When a toenail has become irritated, improperly trimmed, or misshaped, it can be very painful and cause an ingrown toenail.
“Ingrown toenails are usually painful areas at either side of a toenail because the edge of the toenail is ‘growing into’ the flesh at the side of the nail,” explains Dr. J. Marshall Devall, a podiatrist at Scott & White South Loop Clinic.
Dr. Devall helps people with a variety of foot problems, including ingrown toenails. He says his patients who undergo treatment for an ingrown toenail are always grateful and thank him for reliving their discomfort.
How Did this Ingrown Toenail Happen?
There are a number of ways that an ingrown toenail can strike. When you see the area around your nail become red, or you see an actual wound present, you will know something is wrong. As many patients of Dr. Devall say, “If your feet hurt, you hurt all over.” The irritation in your toe is similar to the pain and redness when you get a splinter in your finger.
If you have an ingrown toenail, ask yourself:
- Did I cut my toenail too short?—if your nail is too short, it can dig into the skin
- Did I cut my toenail straight across?—it’s best to follow the natural curve of your toe
- Am I wearing shoes that put too much pressure on my toe?—high heels, pointed-toe, or too small shoes can hassle the toenail
- Do I get an ingrown toenail often?—you may have a chronic issue, where your toenail is too think or misshaped
- Did my toenail rip?—a torn or ripped nail can cause jagged edges that bothers the skin
- Am I wearing the right athletic shoes?—ingrown toenails are commonly seen in athletes, including runners who are on their feet often
How Can I Treat My Ingrown Toenail?
“There are a lot of myths surrounding proper care for toenails and ingrown toenails, and it seems there are a lot of home remedies associated with toenails and feet in general,” says Dr. Devall.
He explains a few things you should not do:
- Do not shove cotton under the edge of an ingrown toenail, as this can cause a nasty infection or foreign body reaction
- Do not cut a V in the center of the toenail to take pressure away from the sides
- Liquid topical preparations such as “Outgrow” only soften the toenail and Dr. Devall says it really does nothing for the ingrowth
- Do not buy into the myth that oral antibiotics will cure your ingrown toenail
If you’re in pain, don’t worry. Here are a few things Dr. Devall recommends you can do:
“It is always a good idea if you are limber and you have the appropriate nail clippers (not fingernail clippers) to try to gently trim the pointy nail edge away from the flesh,” says Dr. Devall. “This trimming will ease the foreign body reaction.”
It is Still Hurting—Do I have any Other Options?
Is the pain getting worse? Do you have trouble wearing shoes? Do you see a large flesh or suspected infection? You might need to see your podiatrist. There are Scott & White podiatrists throughout the area, and they will get you immediate relief and thorough treatment for your ingrown toenail.
“Most people are unaware of the options we have for dealing with toenail issues,” says Dr. Devall.
Often a very painful ingrown toenail can easily be trimmed using very small nail clippers by a trained podiatrist without even requiring the toe to be numbed.
If you do need to be numbed, your toe can be anesthetized at the base of the toe, away from the pain in your toenail. Also, the side of your toenail that hurts or the entire toenail can be removed temporarily or permanently using a chemical process that kills the nail growth.
“All of these procedures can easily be done in the podiatry clinic and the patient can be back in shoes and back to work the next day,” says Dr. Devall.
But it’s Just a Toenail, Should I Really Worry?
Yes! If you are in pain, there is no embarrassment in seeing a podiatrist. They are professionally trained and can help you get back on your feet with the right treatment.
Keep in mind that ingrown toenails are usually a reaction from a foreign body, and not an infection. This means the simple incisions or drainage that the podiatrist performs is the proven method of treatment, and not oral antibiotics. If you’ve been hassling with an ingrown toenail for awhile now, it is time to get help.
“Podiatrists are well trained in toenail care and are able to provide an almost painless procedure to permanently resolve even the most stubborn ingrown toenails,” says Dr. Devall.
About the author
I contribute content and skills as a freelance writer for Baylor Scott & White Health. I enjoy improving our connection with our readers, patients and communities by assisting with a wide range of writing projects.