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Ingrown Toenails: Simple but Painful

Foot conditions don’t have to be big, dramatic problems to cause pain. In fact, one of the more excruciating issues is actually quite a simple problem: ingrown toenails. Discomfort from this problem can sharply limit your mobility and make it challenging to participate in many regular activities.

Growing Under the Skin

A nail is ingrown when it curls and grows into the skin, instead of straight forward. This pinches or pierces the soft tissue, causing redness, swelling, and pain around the nail. As the hard keratin continues to grow, it pushes further into your skin. Often a flap of skin extends over the edge. The whole area becomes more prone to infections. If the ingrown nail becomes infected, you may notice pus oozing from the toe or redness spreading on the skin.

Many different factors can cause a nail to curl. Sometime their natural, inherited shape makes you more prone to the problem. Often improper trimming plays a role. Cutting them too short, leaving them too long, or clipping and rounding the edges of the keratin increases your odds that the nails will grow inward. Sometimes trauma to the end of your toe can change your nail shape and drive an edge into your skin. Conditions like fungal infections may encourage it to curl as well. Shoes that are too tight and squeeze your forefoot are another major factor. Any of your nails can curve, though the condition is most common in the big toe.

Alleviating the Pain

Ingrown toenails are quite painful

Ingrown toenails do not resolve on their own. They need invested care to recover. Dr. Paul C. LaFata and our West Lawn Podiatry Associates staff will examine your nail carefully. We’ll determine the extent of the problem, identify any infections, and look for the factors that contributed to your condition. Then we can help you treat the problem.

There are conservative ways to alleviate the pain and prevent infections, particularly if the problem is mild. If you don’t have diabetes or other conditions that damage nerves, you can soak your foot in a warm bath to minimize swelling. You may be able to lift the keratin and place cotton or floss underneath to prevent the nail from curling into your skin. You’ll need to rub the spot regularly with antibiotic cream to prevent infections. You might need to change your shoes, too. Stick to roomy models made from soft fabric so your footwear isn’t pressing on your nail.

The fastest way to relieve your discomfort and eliminate the problem, though, is to excise the ingrown edge. This is a minor procedure that can be done quickly in our office. The nail may be partially or completely removed, depending on your needs and the extent of your condition. If you struggle with a recurring ingrown nail, you may need to have part of it permanently removed or stunted so the edge can’t grow back and cause problems.

Ingrown toenails are unpleasant and surprisingly painful. It can be hard to participate and enjoy your activities when you’re distracted by sharp pain in your toes. Fortunately, there are simple ways to fix this condition. Let our expert team at West Lawn Podiatry Associates outside of Reading, PA, help you. Contact our office for an appointment by calling (610) 678-4581 or using the website request form.