Ingrown toenails. Chances are you’ve had one or know someone who has had one. This common foot problem results in red, swollen and potentially painful inflammation in the skin of your toe around where the toenail pierces and grows into the skin of the toe.
There are many causes of this toenail issue with the most common cause being the improper trimming of toenails.
You may think that your ingrown toenail isn’t that big of a deal. It doesn’t look too bad and it doesn’t cause much pain or discomfort.
What happens if you don’t treat your ingrown toenail? Well, long story short, it can easily transform from something minor to something more serious.
Whenever the skin is punctured and compromised, germs and bacteria can enter the body. When this happens, an infection results as the body attacks the invading germs and bacteria. An infection usually involves redness, inflammation, and heat. Some infections can also include tenderness, itchiness, throbbing and pain. An ingrown toenail will result in an infection that will gradually work into deeper layers of skin and tissue. When left untreated, deeper layers of skin and tissue are affected. This infection can go into the bone tissue. Bone infections can take many weeks to treat and can cause additional pain, redness and swelling of the toes and feet.
Complications of the skin surrounding the nail and the nail itself can have complications if the ingrown toenail isn’t treated. The skin around the toenail can get scarred, the border of the nail can become deformed and thickened and the toenail may become infected with fungus, causing it to become discolored and deformed. Tenderness, bleeding and draining may also occur around the ingrown toenail.
When to Seek Help
It is important to get your ingrown toenail treated as soon as possible to keep it from progressing and getting worse. In the early stages, simple home remedies can eradicate the problem. If the condition isn’t better in a week or if the pain and discomfort get worse, an appointment with a medical professional is recommended.
If you experience or notice any of the following signs of an infection, you should see your doctor:
- Redness that spreads from the toe to the middle of the foot ( streaking)
- Swelling around the ingrown toenail
- Redness around the nail
- Pain, tenderness and inflammation around the toenail
- A bad odor coming from the nail
- The drainage of white, green or yellow pus from the skin around the affected area
Some patients, particularly those with diabetes, poor circulation in the feet and those with a deficient immune system are highly encouraged to see their doctor even if their toenail condition is mild.
Simple home remedies, prescription antibiotics and surgery are possible treatment options for this condition. If you suspect that you have this common foot ailment, be sure to start treating it early and contact your doctor when conditions worsen or don’t improve. Untreated ingrown toenails can lead to more serious foot conditions that are harder to treat.