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When Should I See a Podiatrist for an Ingrown Toenail?

An ingrown toenail occurs when the side or top corner of one of your toenails starts growing into the soft tissues of your toe. 

An ingrown toenail may simply be tender to the touch early on, but without proper care, it can become a persistent problem that makes it hard to put on a pair of shoes or walk without wincing in pain. Even worse, an ingrown toenail can trigger an infection that could spread all the way to your bone. 

If you have a painful ingrown toenail that hasn’t improved with self-care, full-service podiatrist Svetlana Malinsky, DPM can help. Here’s when it’s a good idea to seek her expert care.  

Ingrown toenails explained 

A toenail is ingrown when either its front or side edge grows into your nail grooves, or the soft flesh along the outer edges of your nail bed. Normal toenail growth, by comparison, extends out and away from your nail grooves. 

As one of the most common toenail problems that Dr. Malinsky sees in her practice, ingrown toenails can develop for different reasons, including:  

Although any toe can develop an ingrown nail, the problem affects the big toe most often.  

Common signs and symptoms

The average ingrown toenail starts out as little more than a mild irritant. It may cause a twinge of discomfort when you bump it, or it may make your favorite pair of heels or dress shoes feel less comfortable.   

As the problem gets worse, you may develop pain in your toe along one or both sides of the nail that persists even when you’re not wearing shoes, touching your toe, or putting pressure on it. 

Without proper care, an ingrown toenail can become chronically inflamed, swollen, and red; if it becomes infected, you may notice weeping drainage, or pus, along the affected nail grooves.

Expert care for ingrown toenails 

You should schedule a visit with Dr. Malinsky if you have a painful ingrown toenail that hasn’t improved with basic self-care measures like soaking your feet in warm water or switching to more sensible footwear. 

You should also come into the office if you experience redness, swelling, or any other sign of infection. Left untreated for too long, an infection in your nail bed can easily spread to the bone of the affected toe.

If you have diabetes, peripheral artery disease (PAD), or any other health condition that limits the circulation in your feet, it’s imperative that you see Dr. Malinsky as soon as you notice an ingrown toenail, no matter how mild. 

Having poor circulation in your feet leaves you more vulnerable to developing an infection from an ingrown toenail that can rapidly endanger your overall health. 

As a diabetic foot care specialist, Dr. Malinsky recommends routine podiatry checkups and nail care for any adults who suffer from poor circulation and/or reduced sensation in their feet. 

Ingrown toenail prevention 

Even if you have toenails that curve into your nail grooves more than normal, there’s still a lot you can do to lower your chances of developing another ingrown toenail. 

Proper nail care is at the top of the list. Trim your toenails regularly so they’re even with the tips of your toes; don’t cut them to the quick or allow them to grow too long between trimmings. It’s also important to trim your toenails straight across, rather than cutting them to match the curve of your toe. 

You can also reduce your risk of getting another ingrown toenail by choosing well-fitting shoes with a wide toe box that doesn’t crowd or squeeze your toes.  

And don’t forget to check your feet regularly — every day if you have diabetes and/or poor foot circulation — for toenails that appear to be growing inward; ingrown toenails are always easier to treat when they first develop.  

If your ingrown toenail needs expert care, Dr. Malinsky can help. Call 301-232-3358 to reach her College Park, Maryland, office today, or click here to book a visit at any time.

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