When Does an Ingrown Toenail Require Medical Treatment?

Ingrown toenails are uncomfortable, unsightly, and embarrassing. However, they can become more than just sore spots if left untreated. Severe ingrown toenails can lead to bone problems and infections, so it's best to get them looked at by a medical professional when they don't heal on their own. 

South Sound Foot & Ankle in Olympia, Washington provides care to those suffering from ingrown toenails, including those with severe or chronic cases. Dr. Mark Hopkins understands the pain and discomfort you’re going through, and he knows how to help encourage proper healing and toenail growth, as well as provide symptom relief. 

Symptoms of ingrown toenails 

Ingrown toenails occur when the toenail fails to grow along the nail bed. This causes it to dig uncomfortably into the side of your toe, leading to broken skin, inflammation, swelling, and even weeping. Bacteria and fungi can infect the raw, open skin of your toes, leading to even more discomfort and pain. 

The big toes are most often affected by this condition, and ill-fitting shoes can exacerbate the issue. 

Chances are, the symptoms of an ingrown toenail will be obvious. The skin will be visibly red and irritated, and your toenail will be growing sideways into the nailbed. There also might be fluid or pus draining from the wound. It will be uncomfortable to wear shoes, especially ones that crowd your toes. 

When to seek medical help 

You can treat an ingrown toenail at home by soaking your feet in Epsom salts and clipping your toenails. Toe separators, antibiotic ointments, and over-the-counter pain medication can alleviate pain and prevent infection. However, some ingrown toenails continue to grow improperly, and your toe might not heal the way it should. Those with diabetes might also have trouble healing after developing an ingrown toenail. 

This is when you need to visit the podiatrist. Podiatrists can treat severe or chronic ingrown toenails, as well as any bacterial/fungal infections that might have set in. 

Your doctor will likely provide a splint to separate the edge of your nail from the nailbed. This will prevent it from digging further into your toe. 

In extreme cases, a chemical solution might be used to remove part (or all) of your nail. This will be done under local anesthesia so you don't experience any pain. When the nail grows back, it should grow normally and stop causing you pain. 

You should seek medical help for an ingrown toenail if the pain becomes severe or the nail doesn't heal on its own. You should see a doctor if the area becomes infected. 

If you're concerned about the state of your ingrown toenail, South Sound Foot & Ankle can help. Call us at 360-216-0492 or booking an appointment online.

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