By Melissa J. Lockwood, DPM, Heartland Foot and Ankle Associates, P.C.
As cold weather approaches and we say good-bye to summer sandals and hello to winter shoes and boots, it’s especially important to make sure that you are wearing shoes and boots that aren’t too tight. Too often, patients let shoes that “hurt a little” slide on for far too long and before you know it, you find yourself with a host of foot problems that may include callouses, corns, bunions, and pain. Ingrown toenails are one of the most common problems that can be exacerbated by shoes that are too snug. People tend to let the problem go on for far too long because after all — it’s only a toenail!
An ingrown toenail typically occurs because the nail was not cut straight across and the “edge” of the nail that was curved to the side is now grown out and digging into the skin next to it. They can also be caused by a pair of shoes that are too tight and rub the skin into the nail fold. This problem can easily lead to painful infections — some patients even require antibiotics to help treat the problem if they wait too long to be seen.
Fortunately, a simple procedure can be performed to correct the problem of an ingrown toenail. It involves numbing the affected toe, using the same type of medication a dentist would use to numb your mouth for a cavity, and removing the ingrown nail down to the root. Sometimes it is advisable to also have a chemical put into the nail root area to “kill” it — no more ingrown toenails.
Recovery time for an ingrown toenail procedure is minimal — the numbing medication will wear off in two to four hours and usually the pressure relief from not having the nail in the corner is immediate. Daily dressing changes with antibiotic medication and band-aids are the preferred treatment for about two weeks after the procedure. Sometimes people will also soak their feet in Epsom salts and water as directed by their podiatrist.
Prevention is, as always, the key to helping solve the vicious cycle of ingrown toenails. Trim nails straight across, avoid shoes that are too snug, and always stop by your podiatrist’s office if you feel any pain — even if it only “hurts a little bit!”
For more information about ingrown toenails, please contact Dr. Melissa Lockwood at Heartland Foot and Ankle Associates, P.C. at 309-661-9975 or www.heartlandfootandankle.com.
Photo credit: KevMaw/iStock