How do I know if I have an ingrown toenail?

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Ingrown toenail

It amazes me how often people allow themselves to suffer from an ingrown toenail before they seek treatment from a podiatrist. Many times they self-treat by digging or clipping the corners. What they fail to realize is that they inevitably make it worse and end of with a paronychia, an infected ingrown toenail.

An ingrown toenail occurs when a corner or side of the nail is incurvated and digs into the soft flesh. They are painful and often can become infected if left untreated. The only self-treatment that should be done is to soak the foot in warm water and add two teaspoons of Epsom salt. This should be done serval times a day for 15 minutes each time. By doing so, you are hoping to alleviate the pain and soften up the nail. If the pain persists or if it appears infected, then you should see a podiatrist to determine if a procedure is needed.

Ingrown Toenail Treatment

Most ingrown toenails will ultimately require a procedure called a partial nail avulsion and matrixectomy. The procedure consists of: a local anesthetic injection followed by the removal of the offending portion of the nail as well as the matrix. The matrix is considered the root of the nail. Most patients will opt for a permanent procedure to prevent a recurrence. This can be done with application of phenol or by using a CO2 laser. Phenol applications by far is the most common procedure. The procedure is done in the office and the patient leaves with a dressing that they leave on for 24 hours with soaking instructions to be started the next day. An antibiotic is usually not required, because the infection resolves once the offending portion of the nail is removed. Follow- up is usually in 2 weeks and in most cases, the toe is healed by then.

It is imperative that you don’t neglect your ingrown toenail, in order to prevent them from taking a turn for the worse and risking the potential of developing a bone infection or cellulitis. The best advice to prevent an ingrown toenail from developing is to use shoes that are not too big nor too small and to cut your toenails straight across.

If you have any questions or would like to be treated, don’t hesitate to call and set up an appointment at Houston Foot & Ankle Care. (713) 541-3199.


Dr. Gabriel Maislos


Houston Foot and Ankle