Ingrown Toenail Pain Relief
There’s a big reason ingrown toenails are very common: anyone with toenails can potentially be affected. Some medical conditions tend to be more common for certain demographics—bunions for women, Achilles tendinitis for men, osteoarthritis for seniors, etc.—but this is not the case for ingrown toenails.
Two-month old infants can have this problem, as can men and women who cross the century mark of life. Out of all the different ways humans can be divided (age, race, gender, etc.), pretty much the only group that isn’t at risk are “those who don’t have toenails.” So just about everyone else could have this problem at some point during his or her life.
When the problem develops, it can be a painful ordeal. As the nail grows into the skin, the soft tissue can become irritated, red and inflamed. Further, an ingrown nail can put you at risk for various infections. (Actually, a significant number of fungal toenails begin this way.) If the skin is pierced at all, bacteria can enter the wound and infect it. Sometimes pockets of pus form, causing even more pressure and pain.
This means that if you have a toenail that has become ingrown, you’re going to want it treated!
Depending on your case, this might be handled in a very conservative manner. In a best-case scenario, an ingrown toenail can be treated by simply soaking the affected foot, lifting the ingrown edge over the skin flanking the nail, and then taking measures to prevent it from becoming ingrown. To reduce infection risk, follow these initial steps by using topical cream or ointment.
Over-the-counter pain relievers are often effective for reducing painful symptoms in mild-to-moderate cases.
As with just about anything in life, however, “best-case scenarios” don’t always happen. (If they did, there’d be no need for the “best-case” label!)
Sometimes, more aggressive treatment is necessary.
Typically, surgery for an ingrown toenail is only needed for conditions that are recurrent and/or causing severe pain.
Between the two issues, it’s more likely we recommend surgery to resolve a recurrent case. The reason for this is simply that the unusually curved structure will cause the nail to continually become ingrown.
It might sound as though removing a toenail will be painful, but this is not the case. Anesthesia will be used to numb the area prior to the procedure.
Following the toenail removal, we may perform a procedure to keep it from growing back. We don’t want you to keep dealing with the same pain and discomfort over and over again, so we can perform a procedure to render the nail matrix—which generates new nail tissue—inoperable on a permanent basis.
After your surgery, your nail will be covered with antibacterial ointment and gauze. It is very important to follow all post-operative instructions, including how to keep the wound clean.
Any operation presents its own unique set of potential risks. It’s important to understand what to expect both during the procedure and during the healing period. A toenail removal is done on an outpatient basis, meaning you may leave the same day. You should be prepared to have someone drive you to and from the appointment. You will probably be able to put pressure on your feet, but it may be uncomfortable for a bit.
Naturally, preventing ingrown toenails is always preferable to needing treatment for them, especially when doing so may require the nail to be removed. As such, here are some tips to help you prevent this issue:
- Keep your toenails at the proper length. The ideal length when cutting your nails is the edge of your toe. Cutting them too short may result in pressure from your footwear directing a nail to grow into surrounding tissue.
- Clip the nails straight across. Unlike if you were to round off your toenails, a straight cut will prevent your nails from digging into the sides as they grow.
- Choose properly-fitting shoes. Wearing shoes that fit you correctly can head off a long list of potential foot problems, and this includes ingrown nails. Footwear that pinches your toes or places too much pressure on them increases your risk of an ingrown nail, so opt for comfortable models that have plenty of room in the toe area.
- Protect your feet. If you work in a job where you have a heightened risk of injuring a toe, be sure to wear steel-toed shoes or other forms of protective footwear.
- Keep an eye on your feet. An ingrown toenail can become a major issue for an individual who lives with diabetes. If you have this condition, include checking for ingrown nails as part of your daily routine.
Should you develop severe pain, pus, or redness that spreads, give our office a call and set up an appointment with us as soon as you can. And as previously mentioned, if you have diabetes and note this condition, contact us immediately as well.
For more information on your ingrown toenail treatment options at Wisconsin Foot Center, or to request an appointment with our Milwaukee County podiatrist office—located conveniently in Hales Corners—simply give us a call at (414) 425-8400 or connect with us online right now!
"Feel Good Feet: A User's Guide to Foot & Ankle Health"