Of course, athletes or people who are on their feet all day are likely to get foot problems. But plenty of foot-related concerns can affect anyone, even if they aren’t particularly hard on their feet. One of the most common of these problems is an ingrown toenail. Here’s what you need to know about ingrown toenail treatment if you think you’re suffering from one:
- What Is an Ingrown Toenail?
An ingrown toenail occurs when a corner of the toenail begins to dig or grow into the flesh of the toe. The first sign of an ingrown toenail is pain and inflammation at the site, though extra tissue may start to grow and a yellow fluid may drain from the infected site if it is not properly treated.
- What Causes Ingrown Toenails?
Some factors thought to increase the risk of ingrown toenails cannot be managed by the patient. Some people have a certain upturned bone structure in their toes that makes ingrown toenails more likely. However, you can try to prevent ingrown toenails by avoiding tight shoes (especially high heels), cutting your toenails neatly and correctly, and treating fungal infections promptly.
- What At-Home Treatments Work?
Some simple ingrown toenail treatments can be tried at home. Soaking your feet in hot water several times a day can soften the flesh and nail and allow you to remove the nail from the affected tissue. Dental floss or gauze can be inserted between the tissue and the nail to gently and gradually lift the nail away. Over-the-counter pain medication (such as ibuprofen) can reduce swelling and relieve pain.
- When Should I Go to the Doctor?
If you see any signs of infection, you should see a local podiatrist immediately. You should also seek professional care if three days of home care have not lessened inflammation at the site. Ingrown toenail treatments offered by podiatrists include lifting the nail, prescribing medication to combat infection, or removing some of the flesh or nail.
- Are Ingrown Toenails Dangerous?
For most people, ingrown toenails are merely painful, and not dangerous, since they’d notice if an infection began to spread. But ingrown toenails are one reason that regular podiatry visits are a vital part of diabetic foot care; because diabetes affects the nerves in the feet, it’s possible for people with diabetes to be completely unaware of a simple problem like an ingrown toenail until ingrown toenail surgery — or worse, amputation — is the only treatment option left.
Have you had an ingrown toenail before? Did you try to treat it at home, or did you decide to find a podiatrist right away? Share your experience or ask questions in the comments.