How Do Podiatrists Treat Ingrown Toenails?


Ingrown toenails, especially on big toes, are a common occurrence. You get one when the corner of a toenail grows into the soft flesh of your toe, resulting in pain, redness, swelling and even infection. Many people get them from not trimming their nails properly or wearing the wrong shoes. Repeated trauma and genetics can also cause ingrown toenails.

Because many people acquire this ailment, podiatrists see this problem a lot. Although most people can treat their ingrown toenails at home by soaking their toes in warm water or using other treatments, there are times when you should see a podiatrist.

When Should You See A Podiatrist for?

It’s time to see a podiatrist if your nail has yellow or green drainage, severe or spreading pain or excessive redness that does not go away after a few days of home treatments. Infected nails, with pus, swelling, redness and increased sensitivity, can cause further complications, including tetanus, so seeing a foot doctor about a persistent infected toe is a good idea.

If you have diabetes or another condition that causes poor circulation to your feet, you are at greater risk of getting more severe complications and should seek immediate treatment at the first signs of an ingrown toenail. Also, if you experience ingrown toenails over and over, you might want to see a podiatrist about a permanent solution to prevent your toenails from growing into your skin.

How Will The Podiatrist Treat You?

When you go to a podiatrist for an ingrown toenail, the podiatrist will treat you with either surgical or non-surgical methods. In most cases, non-surgical methods can be used successfully. Your doctor may use tape to pull the nail away from the skin. Or he or she may lift the nail and wedge a splint (a cotton wisp, dental floss, other) under the edge of the nail to separate the nail from the skin. Another common method is to trim or remove the ingrown portion of the nail with nail trimmers. Podiatrists are able to trim your nails without causing further damage to your foot. And for a recurrent ingrown toenail, your doctor may suggest matricectomy or partial nail matricectomy to remove a portion of your toenail along with the nail bed or the entire nail to reshape the nail and prevent further ingrown toenails.

First, the doctor will inject the toe with a local anesthetic and then remove the nail along the edge growing into the skin using a chemical, a scalpel or a laser. If the toe is infected, the infection will be surgically drained. The procedure usually takes about 30 to 45 minutes depending on the extent of the problem. You can go home immediately and recover in two weeks to two months. Topical or oral antibiotics might also be recommended.