Have you ever pondered the existence of your toenails? These complex structures protect the thin bones of our toes, ensuring our mobility and quality of life. Sometimes, though, problems can occur that result in more harm than good. If you've ever experienced ingrown toenails you surely understand.
Ouch, My Aching Toe
An ingrown toenail occurs when the nail grows and digs into the fleshy edges of your toe, instead of over them. Typically occurring in the big toe, the area becomes painful, tender, swollen, red, and warm to the touch. As the nail grows deeper inward, extra tissue and skin will grow around it. Yellow mucous and drainage become a factor as the body naturally attempts to correct the invasion. If left untreated, ingrown nails pose the risk of infection or formation of an abscess. When the toe becomes infected, the drainage will become cloudy and white. Other signs of infection include a light colored section of skin developing within the red, irritated area, and possibly the presence of a fever.
What Can I Do?
The most common reasons for your painful condition are improper toenail trimming, wearing ill-fitted shoes, fungal infection, sustaining an injury—such as stubbing your toe—and even inheritance. To prevent future foot pain, we suggest careful trimming of the nail. Never cut your toenails too short and do not follow the natural rounded edge of your toe. The nail should be clipped straight across and kept the length of your toe. Always keep your clipping tools neat, clean, and dry.
Other preventative measures include wearing proper footwear. If your shoes are too tight around your toes, you're putting yourself at risk. Be sure that your shoes leave adequate room for your toes. Avoid wearing pointed shoes and high heels. In general, any sort of footwear that causes the toes to feel squished, compressed, or under pressure should be avoided. Protect your feet today and they'll feel better tomorrow.
If your nail has begun to grow inward, there are several treatment options. You may wish to begin with at-home remedies. Try soaking the toe in warm water 3 to 4 times a day. When you aren't soaking the foot, be sure to keep it clean and dry. If the condition isn't improving, the toenail may need to be lifted from the skin and a small piece of cotton or dental floss should be inserted. This process will encourage the nail to redirect and grow correctly. The cotton or dental floss should be replaced every day. Give it three days and call Dr. Evan Merrill or Dr. Adam Gerber if the pain worsens or the nail doesn't improve. In some cases, ingrown toenails need professional care.
If your nail has become infected, prescription medication may be recommended. Depending on the severity of the condition, you may even need surgery. Surgical options include partial or full removal of the toenail. In the event that the nail has to be removed, it will grow back within 3 to 4 months. For those individuals who are prone to suffering from chronic ingrown toenails, permanent removal may be discussed.
The health and safety of your feet are extremely important. Don't wait until the pain becomes unbearable. Contact Southern Oregon Foot and Ankle, here in Medford, OR, for more information on how to take care of your nails. Call our office at (541) 776-3338 or use our online contact form to schedule an appointment today!