When should I see a podiatrist for an ingrown toenail?


Ingrown toenails are a very common problem mainly affecting the big toe.  They can also develop on the other nails and can be caused by genetics, trauma, ill-fitting shoes, nail conditions, or incorrect trimming. 

Mild ingrown toenails can often be fixed by simply cutting out the small part of the nail that is causing the problem.  However, some ingrown nails can become infected and be very painful.  If you experience any of these symptoms, you should make an appointment to see a podiatrist immediately.  In this case, they will more than likely recommend having a “partial nail avulsion” done—which involves numbing the toe and then taking out the offending nail border, from the start of the nail all the way back to where it grows from,  the procedure itself takes less than ten minutes.  If it has been a recurring problem, a chemical to kill the nail root may be recommended, preventing that portion of the nail from regrowing and causing issues in the future.  Resist the urge to perform “bathroom surgery” on yourself because you could make things worse. 

If you have diabetes, peripheral vascular disease, or any other medical condition that would predispose you to develop infections more easily, or you believe that your toenail (s) may be ingrown, it is better to err on the side of caution and see a doctor early on.    The few days following the procedure, you may experience some mild pain that can be controlled with over-the-counter medication such as Tylenol or ibuprofen. Most people can resume their normal activity within a few days post-procedure.