Learning More About Podiatrist Care

How Should You Handle An Ingrown Toenail?

Ingrown toenails occur when your nail starts burrowing into the skin on the side of your toe. Anyone can get ingrown nails, though they are most common in those who wear too-tight shoes or heels. If you have an ingrown toenail, make sure you follow these dos and don'ts when it comes to treating the condition.

Do: See a podiatrist immediately if you're a diabetic.

Ingrown nails are mostly an annoyance for non-diabetics, but for diabetics, they can be quite dangerous. Diabetes impairs the circulation in the feet, putting you at an increased risk of infection once you develop an ingrown toenail. And an infection can spread rapidly in a diabetic's foot. So, see your podiatrist immediately if you're a diabetic with an ingrown toenail; he or she can trim the nail properly and give you antibiotics to prevent the area from becoming infected.

Don't: Be too aggressive about trimming the nail.

Assuming you're not diabetic, you can trim a mild ingrown nail yourself. However, if it's more than a tiny bit into your skin or you're going to draw blood by cutting it, leave the trimming to a podiatrist. Just keep cutting the nail straight across in the meantime. Digging into your own skin with nail clippers or other tools may make matters worse by creating sores that won't heal or that become infected.

Do: Alleviate soreness with an Epsom salts bath.

Toss a handful of Epsom salts into a warm pan of water, and stick your foot in. This will help alleviate swelling in the tissues around your nail, making you more comfortable. The Epsom salts also help fight off bacteria to reduce your risk of infection.

Don't: Ignore signs of infection.

If the tissue around your ingrown nail becomes red, hot, and overly sore, these are signs of infection. You may also notice pus coming from around the nail. Always contact your podiatrist at the first sign of infection in an ingrown nail. He or she can prescribe antibiotics or an antibiotic cream to clear up the condition. Otherwise, you risk having the infection spread through your body – and perhaps even into your bloodstream – where it can become deadly.

Do: Wear shoes that put less pressure on your toes.

Switching to loose or open-toed shoes will give your nail the space it needs to correct its own growth. Say "no" to heels and tight shoes until your nail is growing properly again.

In most cases, ingrown toenails are minor and will resolve on their own if you keep trimming the nail straight, soaking your foot in Epsom salts, and wearing shoes that put less pressure on your toes. If you're not experiencing relief, see your podiatrist, who is equipped to treat any source of foot and ankle pain.