Ingrown toenails can be very painful!

An ingrown nail occurs when a piece of the nail digs into the skin and puts pressure along the side of the toenail. The area can become inflamed causing pain, redness and swelling.

Ingrown toenails most commonly affect the big toe but can occur on any toe. It can even become so sensitive and painful that it's difficult to put on a shoe or sock, or even have the bed sheet cover it at night!

Causes of Ingrown Toenails

There are several different causes of ingrown toenails. The condition can be hereditary, but can also be caused by improper nail trimming, injuries to the toenail area, and/or tight-fitting shoes. Pedicurist who try to trim or scrape too deeply along the nail borders are often to blame as well. Ingrown toenails occur most commonly on the great toes, but can affect the other toes as well.

Once a problem develops along the side of the nail, the pressure increases as the nail grows. The nail will start to dig into the skin and start to be sensitive.

If not treated properly the nail can penetrate the skin, which almost always leads to an infection and even more pain.  It is very difficult (and painful!) to try and remove an ingrown toenail on your own. The nail is embedded so deeply in the nail groove that you can't see where to cut or when to stop. In addition, the deeper you cut the more it hurts.

Treatment of Ingrown Toenails

The best thing to do if you have an ingrown toenail is get to a podiatrist right away. Avoid self-treatment!

In the early stages, he may be able to simply and painlessly trim out the piece of the nail that's causing the pain. If the problem is more severe he can use a local anesthetic to numb the toe, the easily remove the ingrown portion of the nail.

There are many myths about ingrown toenails and several reasons why people try to avoid having their ingrown toenails removed. The most common is fear of the local anesthetic injection. If performed properly the injection should be relatively painless.

An experienced podiatrist will likely use a cold spray or some other means of deadening the skin so you won't feel the shot. He also should inject the medication slowly and will know exactly where to inject in order to minimize the number of injection (you should be able to completely numb a big toe with 2 shots and a lesser toe with only 1 shot!).

Some people think that they will eventually be able to remove their ingrown toenails themselves or that the problem will just go away - not likely!

Once a toenail is ingrown, the ingrown portion of the nail almost always has to be removed.  If you have an ingrown toenail we recommend that you don't delay getting treatment.

Ingrown toenail removal is simple, relatively painless, and also inexpensive. Don't keep suffering and run the risk of worsening infection and more serious complications. Contact our Long Beach podiatry office by calling 562-433-0478 to schedule an appointment today. 

Richard H. Graves, DPM
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Podiatrist, Sports Medicine Specialist