Ingrown Toenails: What NOT to Do
When it comes to a mild case of ingrown toenails, you might find yourself with a few choices to make about how you manage your care.
Now, certainly, we have our own recommendation: We think you should call us. In our professional opinion, it’s just better to get them taken care of early, so you stop the pain right away and don’t even take a chance on the condition developing an infection, and more severe pain, in the days ahead.
But yes, in some cases, home care can work. If you’d like to learn more about the specific procedures we’d recommend for home care, check out this blog for the details.
If you do go this route, though, knowing what NOT to do is just as important as knowing what to do. If you decide to risk home care, the last thing you want is to inadvertently make your situation worse.
So, here are some of the most important things to avoid:
Don’t Bother with Home Care at All If You Have Diabetes, Neuropathy, or Circulatory Problems
Again, we generally recommend that you come see us right away regardless of your health status. But if you have any of these conditions (or any related to them), “generally recommend” is upgraded to “strongly urge, with great seriousness.”
Simply put, if you have diabetes or any issues with your nerves or circulation, the odds that an ingrown toenail will get infected are much higher—and the difficulty of treating that infection will be much greater.
We’ve amputated enough toes over the years to understand how gravely serious an ingrown toenail can be for people in at-risk groups, and we really, really, really don’t want to have to amputate your toe as well. Don’t risk it!
Don’t Pack Your Feet into Tight Shoes
Tight shoes are not only one of the most common initial causes of ingrown toenails, but they also have a bad tendency to make active cases worse.
Definitely avoid shoes that cram your toes into a narrow, shallow, or pointed toe box, as well as shoes that throw all your weight to the front of your feet. These styles of footwear can put excessive pressure on the nails, diverting them into the soft surrounding flesh.
Don’t Cut Your Nails Too Short
This is another common mistake that can either cause a new case of ingrown toenails to form, or an existing one to get worse.
When you cut your nails too short—especially around the corners—you’re basically giving your nails more “travel distance” they must cover to get around the tip of the nail, which means they have more opportunity to snag the skin and start digging in.
So, do make sure you keep your toenails neatly trimmed, but make sure you leave a little bit of length on the end, and don’t round the corners. Cutting relatively straight across is good. File down a bit if they’re too sharp.
Don’t Try to Dig or Cut the Ingrown Nail Out Yourself
This is a HUGE one.
Certainly, we understand why this might be your first reaction. You have a toenail digging into your skin. It hurts. Why wouldn’t you try to dig it out?
The main reason here is infection. Even under normal circumstances, you’re already at risk of developing one with an ingrown toenail. But by trying to remove or dig out the nail yourself, you could take a small break in the skin and make it into a big one. You’re also likely to cut or hurt yourself in other ways.
If part of your nail needs to be removed, it should always be done by a skilled professional in a sterile environment. No exceptions.
Don’t Bother Cutting a “V-Notch” Into Your Toenail
There’s a common “home remedy” out there that suggests if you cut a notch into the end of the nail, the growth of the nail will be altered in such a way that the edges/borders will move back toward the center of the nail.
Quite simply, this is just plain false. Cutting a notch in the nail does not affect its direction of growth whatsoever. At best, this “remedy” will do nothing, and at worst you’ll accidentally cut yourself and make things worse.
Don’t Try to Be a Hero
Hey, we get it. Lots of people, given the choice, would rather take care of a problem at home if they can.
But even if you have an exceptionally high pain tolerance, there’s no shame in picking up the phone if things are getting difficult to deal with on your own. In fact, any kind of severe pain, or pain that limits your ability to enjoy regular activities, should always trigger an immediate call to our office.
(Frankly, there’s no reason not to pick up the phone long before it even gets to that point.)
Ingrown toenails can be treated very quickly and very easily in a single office appointment. Your toe is numbed, and we take it out. If necessary, we can also alter the nail matrix so the ingrown part of the nail won’t grow back.
The procedure itself is painless due to the anesthetic, and because the source of the pain is completely removed, your discomfort will be much less once that anesthetic wears off. The aftercare is pretty minor as well, and most people are back to their normal activities within a day.
Sound good? Just give us a call or complete our handy appointment request form. We’ll be happy to help!