While minor aches and pains in your feet probably won’t have you rushing to the podiatrist’s office for care, certain seemingly innocuous foot problems might require a professional’s touch. Take ingrown toenails, for example. While you may be able to soothe and ease the pain on your own, it’s also important to recognize when an ingrown toenail may require treatment from a podiatrist.
What is an ingrown toenail?
An ingrown toenail occurs when the edge of the nail grows into the skin, causing redness, swelling, and pain. While this can happen to any toenail, it more commonly affects the big toe. While a minor ingrown toenail for an otherwise healthy individual may not be a cause for concern, some situations warrant turning to a podiatrist for care.
When should I see a podiatrist?
If you notice any of these signs of an infected ingrown toenail it’s time to visit a foot doctor:
- Increased pain, swelling, or redness
- Skin that’s hard to the touch
- Pus or drainage coming from the nail
If the ingrown toenail hasn’t gotten better in a couple of days this also warrants seeing a podiatrist. People with compromised immune systems, diabetes, or nerve damage in their feet should come in right away for care (and should not try to simply treat the problem themselves). Ignoring these issues when they occur could lead to more dangerous infections or complications.
Can you prevent ingrown toenails?
There are things you can do to reduce your risk of developing an ingrown toenail. Some of these steps include:
- Not picking, pulling, or tearing your toenails (especially torn edges)
- Making sure that you are trimming your nails straight across (never curved) and that you keep them level with the tips of your toes
- Wearing shoes that have a large toe box and don’t bunch up your toes (shoes with a pointed toe will put too much pressure on the toenails)
- Wearing the appropriate footwear for certain activities, such as construction work or sports, to prevent injuries
If you are experiencing symptoms of an infected ingrown toenail, or if you have never dealt with an ingrown toenail before, turn to your podiatrist for a proper evaluation and treatment plan. No problem is too small for a foot and ankle specialist to tackle.