You are noticing that you have pain at the edge of one of your toenails. This pain is worse when you are wearing shoes. It feels like the nail is digging into your skin. You look at your toe and you may see that the surrounding area is red and is painful to touch. Many people recognize that this is an ingrown toenail, which in medical terms is called Onychocryptosis.
A common home remedy for an ingrown toenail is soaking your foot in warm water with Epsom salt. This is not fixing the ingrown toenail, but it may temporarily help to relieve the pain. It is common to have to visit a podiatrist to get your toenail fixed. There are a couple of ways to fix an ingrown toenail, which will be based on its condition. For example, if your toe is infected, the podiatrist will perform what is a called an incision and drainage procedure. Before this procedure is performed, the toe will be given an injection of local anesthesia, so the procedure will be painless. The offending border of the nail will be removed and the toe will be bandaged. You need to leave the bandage on until the next day. The next day, you will remove the bandage and begin soaking your foot in warm water with Epsom salt for 20 minutes. You will do this soaking two times a day for a week. After each soaking, you will put a new bandage on. It is also likely that you will be prescribed an oral antibiotic to take with food two times a day or antibiotic drops that you put on the site. This will help to clear your infection. The day after the procedure, it is common to have some pain, but the pain is mostly due to the presence of the infection, so it is important to take your antibiotics as prescribed in order to fully kill the infection.
If the ingrown toenail has been a problem in the past, you may need to have a phenol and alcohol procedure performed. This procedure is similar to the incision and drainage; however, the offending border of the nail will not grow back. Before this procedure is performed, an injection of local anesthesia will be put into the toe. The offending border of the nail will be removed in the same manner as the incision and drainage procedure. Once the nail border is removed, a chemical, called phenol, and alcohol will be applied to the site to kill that nail root to prevent regrowth, which will prevent the reoccurrence of an ingrown nail. It is important to understand, that if your toe is infected, the phenol and alcohol procedure will not be performed since the infection neutralizes the phenol and alcohol, so the nail root will not be killed. If there is an infection, an incision and drainage procedure will be performed first and after the infection has cleared, the procedure can be redone with using the phenol and alcohol to permanently remove the nail. There is not a lot of pain after this procedure, but there may be some discomfort with wearing shoes. Similar to the incision and drainage procedure, for two weeks after the procedure, soak your foot in warm water with Epsom salt and change your bandage daily. The success rate of preventing another ingrown toenail is very high with this type of procedure.
It is very important that you do NOT try to cut or dig out your own ingrown toenail, as this is one of the most common causes for an ingrown toenail becoming infected; it can also lead to a more painful toe. If you have an ingrown toenail, visit the Platte Valley Foot and Ankle Clinic for further evaluation.