Sep 30, 2020
What to Expect from Professional Ingrown Toenail Treatment
Dr Cory Pilling. DPM
At best, “ingrown toenails ” can be a frustrating nuisance that makes putting on a pair of shoes or socks just a little more painful or perilous than it really should be.
At worst, they can be excruciatingly painful, and even lead to a dangerous infection. And unfortunately, they can also move quite rapidly from the first category into the second if you aren’t serious about getting them the proper care.
Yet many people wait until they can’t bear the pain any longer to come see us—whether that’s because they initially underestimate the danger, or simply because they’re worried that the treatment will be more risky or painful than the injury itself.
There’s no need to be so concerned! Professional treatment for ingrown toenails is actually quite simple, and almost always provides the fastest, safest, and least painful route to recovery.
We’ll walk you through it to show you what we mean. But we’ll give you the short summary first:
- You can get it taken care of in a single appointment
- Pain relief is swift and significant
- Most people are able to return to normal activities within a day
- Permanent relief is possible with one simple additional procedure
Now, let’s break it down.
Evaluation of the Ingrown Toenail
The first step, naturally, is to figure out what exactly you’re dealing with.
The vast majority of ingrown toenails can be diagnosed from a simple visual inspection—no need for diagnostic tests or imaging.
However, diagnosis is only one part of the story. We’ll also want to identify the root causes of the ingrown toenail, as well as assess its severity and whether it is (or is likely to become) infected.
In addition to the physical exam, we’ll also talk with you about things like your activities, toenail trimming habits, and footwear. (Bring in a pair of your shoes!) We’ll also want to know if this is your first ingrown toenail, or if you have a history of getting them.
By taking our time with the evaluation, we can help you determine which treatment route might be best for you—as well as which additional steps you should take at home to reduce your risk of additional problems.
Determining a Treatment Course
If your ingrown toenail is mild and you don’t have any previous history with the condition, we may only need to gently lift the nail or trim it back.
However, most patients who come in with the problem gain the most benefit from a partial nail removal. This is a very simple, straightforward procedure that can be performed under local anesthesia, so it’s completely painless. Once the toe is numb, we’ll simply remove the offending portion of the nail (usually just one edge or border, but sometimes the full nail), then bandage the toe.
If your ingrown toenail is an isolated event, this may be the only treatment you require. If you have a history of this problem, we may recommend a matrixectomy as well. This is a second minor procedure to remove the cells responsible for growing new nail tissue. Again, usually only a portion of the nail matrix will need to be removed, so only the edge of the nail causing the problem won’t grow back. The result still looks quite natural, and the ingrown toenails will very likely be gone for good!
Either way, we want to reiterate that these procedures are quite painless. The most uncomfortable part is the shot, but once the anesthetic sets in you shouldn’t feel anything. And by the time the numbness wears off, the pain should already be much less than it was when you still had a nail border digging into your skin!
We’ll make sure you’re well prepared with instructions to care for your healing toe after you leave our office. The great news is that aftercare tends to be quite mild and manageable for the vast majority of our patients.
For about 24 hours, you’ll want to take it easy. Keep your foot elevated as much as you can, and avoid doing any kind of strenuous exercise or activity.
Most people are able to return to work, school, or other typical activities the next day. However, we may ask you to limit certain vigorous exercises, as well as swimming, for up to two weeks after your procedure.
We may recommend several simple at-home steps you can take to minimize post-procedure pain and swelling as you heal, including:
- Soaking the toe in warm water once or twice per day
- Keeping the toe dry and bandaged otherwise
- Wearing roomy or open-toed shoes
Again, we’ll make sure you get detailed instructions before leaving our office, and you can of course call us at any time if you have questions
When Should I See Dr. Pilling for Ingrown Toenail Treatment?
Honestly, we strongly encourage patients to call us as soon as they notice a problem—no need to wait for the pain to reach a certain threshold.
The earlier you deal with your ingrown toenail, the greater the chance you can avoid severe pain or an infection. And treatment from a professional like Dr. Pilling is almost always going to be a safer, faster, and more reliable option than taking treatment matters into your own hands.
That said, there are a few “clear lines” where home treatments cross over from “not recommended” to “unsafe.” Please call us immediately if any of the following apply:
- Pain is severe or interfering with daily activities
- You notice signs of infection (redness, swelling, drainage, etc.)
- You have diabetes, poor circulation, or neuropathy
- You have recurring ingrown toenails
That said, we hope that after reading about how simple and relatively painless professional treatment is, you won’t have any more hesitation about picking up the phone and giving us a call right away!
Let our team help you get rid of your ingrown toenail problem—for now, or even forever with a matrixectomy procedure. You can reach us in Twin Falls at (208) 733-0436, or in Burley at (208) 678-2727.