December 19, 2015
Ingrown toenails are a common problem seen in the feet. Although there is typically no great risk or concern unless infection sets in, they can be quite painful and cumbersome to manage. Nonetheless, if recognized, diagnosed, and treated early, they are rarely problematic. However, many patients find themselves unsure of how to proceed when suspecting an ingrown nail. Is it really ingrown? Is it infected? Can I cut it out myself? Can I take or apply medicine instead of cutting the nail out? All of these questions are fairly common, and reasonable.
An ingrown toenail, or onychocryptosis, is when one or both sides of the nail grow into the adjacent nail fold/skin. They are usually caused by ill-fitting shoe gear, heredity, trauma to the nail, or improper trimming of the nail. An ingrown nail is not always infected. In fact, many times the nail can be embedded in the skin without an associated bacterial infection. However, if left untreated, many ingrown toenails will develop some sort of localized infection, which usually presents with redness, pain, bloody drainage, or even pus. While an infection is an undesirable result for any patient, it is especially concerning for diabetics with decreased sensation, or other patients with any condition causing poor circulation to the feet. Such an infection, if left untreated could lead to spreading of the infection, development of a wound, or possible amputation of the digit. Thus, while there are many home remedies or methods of treating a possible ingrown nail, it’s always best to see your podiatrist for evaluation and treatment, particularly if you are an at-risk patient with diabetes, peripheral neuropathy, or some form of vascular disease.