Ingrown toenails have always sounded as though they should be trivial affairs. After all, we're just talking about toenails, right? But ask anyone who has suffered with one and she will be happy to tell you just how excruciating the experience can be.
Ingrown toenails are a common condition in which the corner or side of a toenail grows into the soft flesh. The result is quite a lot of pain, redness, swelling and, sometimes, an infection. Ingrown toenails usually affect your big toe.
Most of the time, we suffer these ingrown toenails on our own, with no medical attention. But if you experience severe discomfort in your toe or pus or redness that seems to be spreading, then you should see a doctor.
Complications could be especially severe if you have diabetes, which can cause poor blood flow and damage nerves in your feet. So a minor foot injury — a cut, scrape, corn, callus or ingrown toenail — may not heal properly and become infected. A difficult-to-heal open sore – a foot ulcer - may require surgery to prevent gangrene.
In most circumstances, you can treat your ingrown toenail at home.
· Soak your feet in warm water. Do this for 15 to 20 minutes three to four times a day. Soaking reduces swelling and relieves tenderness.
· Place cotton or dental floss under your toenail. After each soaking, put fresh bits of cotton or waxed dental floss under the ingrown edge. This will help the nail grow above the skin edge.
· Apply antibiotic cream. Put antibiotic ointment on the tender area and bandage the toe.
· Take pain relievers. Over-the-counter pain relievers such as acetaminophen, ibuprofen and naproxen sodium may help ease the toe pain.
If these home remedies do not work for you, visit your doctor. She will be able to lift the nail and separate it from the overlying skin. Your doctor may opt to remove the all or part of the affected nail (after first injecting your toe with an anesthetic).
If you have a chronic problem with an ingrown nail on the same toe, your doctor may suggest removing a portion of the nail along with the underlying nail bed, thereby preventing that part of your nail from growing back. Your doctor will use a chemical, a laser or other methods.
In order to avoid suffering with ingrown toenails, make a point of trimming your toenails regularly – and be sure to wear properly fitting shoes!