Ingrown nails mostly affect the toes, especially the big toe, because of the pressure of the body’s weight. A nail becomes ingrown either because the skin grows over the nail or the nail grows into the skin around it.
Regardless of the cause, you end up with a painful, hard, red swelling at the nail’s corner, which can easily develop an infection.
At Chicagoland Foot and Ankle, our team of experienced podiatrists understands how painful ingrown toenails can be and how they can stubbornly recur when you try to treat them at home. That’s why we recommend having a professional treat the nail.
Causes of ingrown toenails
Toenails can become ingrown for many reasons, including when you:
- Cut nails below toe edge
- Cut the edges rounded instead of straight across
- Wear shoes that are too tight
- Wear tight socks that push the nail into the toe
- Stress your toes during activities such as ballet, running, and soccer
Your genetics may also predispose you to ingrown toenails.
Signs of an ingrown toenail infection
While you have redness and swelling with just an ingrown nail, you know you have an infection if you notice:
- Redness that spreads
- Increased swelling
- Warmth in the toe
- White or yellow pus oozing from under the nail
These symptoms generally indicate an infected ingrown toenail, but other causes are possible. For example, a bone spur beneath your nail can trigger the same symptoms. For an accurate diagnosis and proper treatment, contact one of our four Chicagoland offices.
Treating ingrown toenails and infections
If you don’t see any discharge from the nail, try some home remedies for two to three days. Start by soaking your toe in warm water with Epsom salts for 15-20 minutes three to four times a day. Take over-the-counter pain relievers and anti-inflammatories for the pain and to reduce swelling.
Choose socks and shoes made of natural fibers that allow your feet to breathe. Your shoes should have plenty of toe room. Change your socks if your feet sweat. And, of course, avoid high heels
If you don’t see an improvement, or if you start to see signs of an infection, make an appointment to see us at Chicagoland Foot and Ankle. If you don’t have an infection, we may be able to lift the nail with a splint to allow the toe to heal.
If you do have an infection, we may prescribe oral antibiotics to clear it up. We also may need to partially or completely remove the nail, some of the underlying nail bed, surrounding tissues, and perhaps even a part of the growth center.
A foot infection can be even more serious if you have diabetes. Diabetics deal with decreased blood flow to the extremities, as well as the likelihood of peripheral neuropathy (lack of nerve sensitivity in the feet). That means even a small cut or ingrown nail can quickly become infected.
If you have an ingrown nail, see a professional for proper diagnosis and treatment, even if it’s not infected. Contact us today to schedule an evaluation. We have offices in the Mount Greenwood and Portage Park areas of Chicago, as well as Orland Park and New Lenox, Illinois.