An ingrown toenail is a common condition that can be painful and frustrating. While this condition can often be treated without a podiatrist’s intervention, some illnesses can exacerbate the severity of ingrown toenails. Diabetes, for instance, can turn this otherwise mundane nuisance into a significant physical threat. Some people try to treat an ingrown nail at home by soaking their feet in Epsom salts or another natural remedy, but this condition can have serious complications, and it’s important to meet with a podiatrist at the first sign of a problem.
Understanding Ingrown Toenails
Ingrown nails develop when the nail grows into the skin or the skin on either side of a nail grows over the nail edge. Most often, it’s the big toe that’s affected by an ingrown nail. Ingrown toenails have a variety of potential causes, including:
- Physical injury
- Improper footwear
- Poor hygiene
The Symptoms of Ingrown Toenails
An ingrown toenail may not be visible to the naked eye. However, they often have certain telltale symptoms. These symptoms include:
- Physical pain, especially when pressing the toenail or wearing shoes
- Tenderness around the affected site
- Discoloration or swelling of the affected toe
Since ingrown toenails are vulnerable to infection and inflammation, they can become progressively worse if left untreated.
Ingrown Toenails and Diabetes
People with diabetes have an increased risk of developing ingrown toenail-related complications, some of which could be severe.
People who have diabetes may suffer from hyperglycemia—the buildup of glucose in the bloodstream. Excess glucose can make it more difficult for the body to repair itself after suffering an injury.
Since people with diabetes may have longer healing times, they face an elevated risk of infection. An infected ingrown toenail could develop into larger problems, including an ulcer or open sore. Diabetes-related infections can also spread, affecting surrounding tissue. Over time, they can affect other parts of the body, too.
An ingrown toenail can impede blood flow to the areas underneath and surrounding the affected toe. If the toenail interferes with circulation, it can cause gangrene, a serious medical condition that results in the death of body tissue.
If an ingrown toenail is infected or becomes gangrenous, diabetic patients need immediate medical attention. Without a timely intervention, the toe may have to be removed to prevent the infection from spreading to the rest of the body.
Treating an Ingrown Toenail
A podiatrist can help you identify, diagnose, and treat an ingrown toenail. Depending on your health and pre-existing medical conditions, they can:
- Prescribe or recommend antibiotics
- Apply topical solutions to relieve swelling, tenderness, and pain
- Debride the affected area
- Provide advice to prevent infection and reduce the likelihood of future ingrown toenails
For serious cases, your podiatrist may recommend permanent nail removal.
Ingrown Toenails and Permanent Nail Removal
When an ingrown toenail becomes a serious or recurring problem, your podiatrist may elect to surgically remove a portion of the affected nail. While permanent nail removal might sound painful, podiatrists almost always use localized anesthesia to ensure that the procedure causes no discomfort.
After the affected toenail has been removed, a chemical solution will be used to destroy the nail matrix, or the underlying bed that facilitates the growth of nail tissue.
Contact a Long Island Podiatrist Today
Ingrown toenails pose additional risks to patients with diabetes. If you have been diagnosed with diabetes and believe you may have an ingrown toenail, taking rapid action is important. Without the right intervention, a serious infection could develop.
Massapequa Podiatry Associates provides fast, effective, and proactive care. We work with our patients to help mitigate risk and prevent ingrown toenails from becoming chronic or recurring problems. Please send us a message online, or call us at 516-541-9000 to speak to a Long Island podiatrist, and schedule your appointment as soon as possible.