Ingrown toenail infections are one of the most common issues people face when it comes to their feet. Many people suffer from this condition, but they rarely know what it is so they cannot treat it correctly and manage it before it gets too bad. It is important to know ingrown toenail symptoms and ingrown toenail management so the condition doesn’t get worse. It’s always better to treat something in its early stages so it doesn’t get infected worse or become a recurring problem. There are many causes of ingrown toenail infections, and the most common causes are improper foot care and wearing shoes that do not fit you right.
If you think you might be suffering from an ingrown toenail infection, read this article to learn how you can identify it and go about ingrown toenail management so it doesn’t get worse!
What Is An Ingrown Toenail Infection?
Before we get into its symptoms, it would help to make it clear exactly what an ingrown toenail infection is and how it’s caused.
Ingrown toenail infections occur when the corner tip or edge of your toenail pokes into the skin surrounding it, instead of freely growing outwards. The toe that’s most likely to suffer from this issue is your big toe since it’s usually the one that’s most in contact with your footwear.
This condition is potentially very painful and can affect pretty much anyone, of all ages. Left untreated, an ingrown toenail infection can lead to other infections that may even spread into the underlying bone structure of your feet.
If you have a condition that reduces the blood flow to your feet, like diabetes and peripheral arterial disease, you’re more likely to suffer from an ingrown toenail. In fact, if you suffer from any of these conditions, your ingrown toenail can turn sour very quickly and lead to severe complications. This is why it’s important to know the symptoms early on and treat it accordingly.
Ingrown toenails are treatable at home, but at-home treatments can lead to complications if not carried out properly and hygienically. These complications will require immediate attention from a podiatrist or medical practitioner.
Ingrown Toenail Symptoms
Now that you know what an ingrown toenail is and why it’s important to know its symptoms early on, we can tell you what to look out for when self-diagnosing an ingrown toenail infection.
You may have an ingrown toenail infection if you have any of the following symptoms:
- Swelling in the affected area
- Pain when you touch the area
- You feel pressure under your affected toenail
- Throbbing sensations in the area
- Foul smell coming from the affected area
- Warmth in and around the infected area (this is your body’s way of telling you that you have an infection, while also fighting off said infection)
- Hardened skin around the affected nail, accompanies with redness
- You may experience a build-up/ooze of fluid in the affected area
- Your nail is thick, yellowing, or cracked. This is a key symptom of a fungal infection and must never be ignored
- You may even develop an abscess that fills with pus, in the area where your nail has punctured your skin
- The edges of your nail have an overgrowth of new and inflamed tissue
Just like any other medical issue, an ingrown toenail starts with minor symptoms that can later on become more serious if not tended to. You must always try to identify an issue when it’s in its a budding stage so you can take care of it before it gets too serious.
Ingrown Toenail Management
Once you’ve checked off “yes” on any of the above symptoms, your next step is to start ingrown toenail management at home to prevent the issue from getting worse. If your ingrown toenail looks infected and has a funky smell or is leaking fluid, skip the home remedies and see a podiatrist immediately! You can never be too safe when it comes to infections.
If your ingrown toenail looks like it’s just about budding and is still in its early phase, you can go ahead and try out any of the below-ingrown toenail management methods.
- NEVER yank or pull on your nail! This can break the skin severely and lead to horrendous complications. You might be able to access your ingrown toenail by lifting your skin gently with a piece of floss. Just make sure to never force it open, and also ensure that your hands are sanitised and clean before you try to treat your ingrown toenail infection.
- To drain the affected area of pus and to reduce your pain, you must fill a bucket with warm water and add Epsom salt or coarse salt to it. Then, gently soak your foot in this solution so your skin softens around your ingrown toenail.
- After softening your skin and draining it of any pus, you can put an antibiotic/antifungal lotion or cream on the nail and the skin around and under it. Apply the cream directly.
- If your pain is unbearable, you can take an over-the-counter (OTC) medicine to help with it. Apart from this, you can also take OTC medications to reduce swelling and discomfort. If the pain truly is unbearable, though, we suggest seeing a podiatrist instead of jumping into OTC medications and trying to treat it on your own.
After you’ve tried all of the above, if your pain and infection persist after a few days, it’s advisable to visit a podiatrist. They’ll be able to lift and access the underpart of your nail much easier, so your topical antibiotics can be applied swiftly and can take effect better.
Apart from ingrown toenail management, it’s important to know how you can prevent the infection altogether. Prevention is always better than cure, so follow these rules so you never have to suffer from an ingrown toenail infection:
- Whenever you trim your toenails, make sure to trim straight across. The edges of your nail must never curve inwards.
- Try not to cut your nails too short.
- Always only wear shoes that fit you properly. Your shoes must never be too tight, and your toes must always have breathing room inside. The same applies to socks and tights.
- If you work in conditions that are hazardous in nature, i.e. construction, try to wear steel-toed boots while working to prevent heavy objects falling on your toenails and hurting them.
If you suspect that your toenails may be abnormally thick or curved, visit a podiatrist for confirmation. Surgery may be necessary for prevention in this case.
When To See A Podiatrist
Now that you know about the early symptoms of an ingrown toenail infection and how you can go about ingrown toenail management at home, you shouldn’t really have much of a problem.
However, if your ingrown toenail persists, is recurring, or gets worse over time (say it starts pussing or gets very painful), you should visit a podiatrist and get professional treatment.
In some cases, surgery may be needed to combat the effects of ingrown toenail infections. It shouldn’t reach this stage if you treat it properly in its early stages and continue to practice prevention and proper foot hygiene.