Signs Your Ingrown Toenail Needs Help From Your Podiatrist

If you consider ingrown toenails to be the most debilitatingly painful problem given that it involves such a seemingly small nail, you’re not alone. These are the exact same thoughts shared by most people who come into our ingrown toenail clinic to have their ingrown nails professionally cared for – and often to get rid of them for good. But how do you know if your ingrown nail is fine to manage at home, or if you should come in for professional treatment? 

Ingrown Toenail: The Basics

First thing first: an ingrown toenail occurs when the edge of a toenail grows into the surrounding skin rather than over it. Think of a small but sharp dagger piercing through healthy skin and staying embedded there – it’s actually very similar! This can result in pain, redness, swelling, and potential infection. Ingrown toenails most commonly affect the big toe, but any toe can be affected.

Identifying An Ingrown Toenail

To spot an ingrown toenail, look for:

  • Pain and discomfort: one of the earliest signs is tenderness or pain along the edge of the affected toenail. Ingrown toenails can also affect both edges of the same toenail.
  • Redness and swelling: the skin around the ingrown toenail may become red, swollen, and painful to the touch.
  • Inflammation: as your ingrown toenail grows deeper into the surrounding skin, you may notice the surrounding area become red and inflamed. Sometimes, there may be pus or clear fluid leaking from the area, which may also be a sign of infection.
  • Difficulty wearing shoes: ingrown toenails can make wearing shoes uncomfortable, and pressure from footwear may worsen the condition.
  • Overlapping skin: you may see the edge of the nail curling into the surrounding skin or observe overlapping of the skin onto the nail.

Home Care For Mild Cases

If your ingrown toenail is mild, you may try managing your symptoms at home by:

  • Soaking your feet in warm, soapy water for 15-20 minutes, 2-3 times a day. This can help soften the nail and reduce inflammation.
  • After soaking, use a clean, disinfected tool, such as a dental floss pick, to gently lift the ingrown edge of the nail away from the skin. Do not force it. This should be easy if the ingrown nail is mild so that it is only pressing against the side of the skin as opposed to already growing deep inside. If the nail has already significantly pierced into the skin, it’s time to see a podiatrist. 
  • Continue to keep the area clean and dry, avoiding tight footwear that puts pressure on the toe.
  • You can try to place a sterile bandage or a piece of cotton under the lifted nail edge to encourage it to grow above the skin. Again, this will not be suitable if your nail has already notably pierced into the skin.

When To Get Help For Your Ingrown Nail

While home care can help with mild cases, you should consult a podiatrist if you experience the following:

  • If ingrown toenails repeatedly affect the same toenail, a professional evaluation is essential to address the root cause.
  • If there are signs of infection, such as increasing redness, pus, or discharge, it’s crucial to book in with your podiatrist
  • Those with diabetes or circulation problems should not attempt self-treatment for ingrown toenails. These conditions can lead to complications and delayed wound healing.
  • A painful abscess (collection of pus) or the presence of a draining sinus warrants immediate attention.
  • If your symptoms worsen or fail to improve within a few days of home care, consult a podiatrist.

Final Tip

Ingrown toenails can be simple for a health professional to manage – but only if they have the right tools, experience and knowledge. As a clinic that sees ingrown toenails day in and day out, we have refined our protocols and processes to ensure you get the very best care for your ingrown nail every time.

Each person’s treatment plan is uniquely tailored to their symptoms and circumstances to help you get the best long-term results. Our podiatrists take the time to discuss every step of the process, alongside all of your treatment options, and are here to help you or your child have the very best experience with their toenail treatment. We’re based in Remuera, in the One Health medical building, close to Newmarket. Call us on 09 523 2333 or book online here.

Diabetes & Ingrown Toenails: What You Must Know

There’s a lot that comes to mind when we think of diabetes, and for most people, the risks to their feet and ingrown toenails are not one of them. Yet as podiatrists that specialise in treating ingrown nails, seeing a diabetic with ingrown nails, particularly if they’ve had more than one in the past, rings some big alarm bells for us. Here’s why.

Background: The True Impact Of Diabetes

Diabetes is a whole-body disease that interferes with the way the body removes the sugar from our bloodstream after we eat, leaving high concentrations of sugar in the bloodstream. This becomes dangerous as it produces toxins that negatively affect all body organs and systems, including our vision, heart, kidneys – and the circulatory system and the nerves in your feet and legs, all the way down to the toes Specifically, diabetes impairs a person’s ability to fight infection, supply enough oxygen and nutrients to their cells, efficiently heal wounds, and feel what is happening to and around their feet. This occurs because two key processes are disrupted: Regular, healthy sensation (feeling) Our nerves are responsible for our ability to feel, detecting everything from a feather being moved across our toes, to standing on an uncomfortable pebble in our shoe. As diabetes can damage the nerves, our ability to feel can fade, become mixed up, and may eventually be lost altogether. This is called peripheral neuropathy When we can’t properly feel what is happening around our feet, this makes us vulnerable to sustaining damage, even something as simple as a scrape or a blister from our shoes, and not knowing it has occurred. This means that we can’t take the right measures to look after the wound and protect our feet, leaving them vulnerable to further damage, infection, the wound turning into an ulcer, and more. Circulation When diabetes damages the blood vessels and impairs your circulation, your tissues aren’t able to receive the blood flow they need to thrive and carry out their essential cellular processes most efficiently. This means that when you sustain a wound, it will take longer for the body to heal, leaving it open and vulnerable to picking up an infection. If an infection takes hold, it is more difficult for your body to fight, exposing you to a range of potential problems.  Together, impairments in both sensation and circulation are some of the key reasons why 34% of people with diabetes are expected to develop a foot ulcer in their lifetime, approximately half of which become infected, and 15% of which then require an amputation. 

What Does This Mean For Your Ingrown Nails?

It means that if you have diabetes:
  • You’re at risk of not being able to detect when an ingrown nail starts, as well as when it becomes severe, because your ability to feel pain is disrupted.
  • Without pain telling you to care for your toe, you may also miss an infection, which may then spread.
  • Aside from being absolutely not recommended for those with diabetes, attempted home treatments for ingrown nails are far less successful because we can often tell when the entire nail spicule is removed from deep within the skin from the feeling of relief and notable pain reduction – something that can be disrupted in diabetes, meaning you may think you successfully removed the ingrown spicule but only part was removed, and part was left behind. This can be very dangerous.
  • You may have difficulty healing and closing the wound left from your ingrown nail because of the effects of poor circulation and reduced blood flow to the toes.
  • Together with the above, attempted home treatment can worsen the problem because it deepens or widens the wound, making it even more difficult to heal. Additionally, any time you have an open wound, it is susceptible to infection.
  • You may continue to struggle with complications from repeated ingrown toenails if you don’t apply effective and ideally permanent treatment to stop the ingrown nail for good.

Having Diabetes Means You Must Take Extra Care With Ingrown Nails

The bottom line is that having diabetes means that you must take extra care of your feet and ingrown toenails to reduce your risk of significant complications like infections or worse. This is where our podiatry team works extensively with people with diabetes to give them the confidence that their feet are safe and progressing well, as well as provide permanent treatment solutions for troublesome, recurring ingrown nails that can solve the problem for good. Diabetes New Zealand has a formal recommendation for having your feet and ingrown nails cared for by a podiatrist to best support your foot health. You can book an appointment with us online here.

Care Tips For Diabetic Feet

To help you best support your foot health at home, here are a few tips from our podiatrists:
  • Wash and dry your feet thoroughly every day, including drying well between the toes to prevent moisture from becoming trapped
  • Check your feet daily by holding them up against a mirror if needed, and check the top, bottom and sides of the feet, including between the toes. Look for marks, spots, cuts, swelling or redness that is not normal. 
  • If you notice anything out of the normal with your feet, book in with a podiatrist or a GP promptly
  • Ensure you have good, supportive shoes that minimise your risk of damage to the feet
  • Check your socks – ideally, these should be cotton with no elastic in the tops, as they will absorb sweat and reduce pressure at the top of the sock line. There are also seamless diabetic socks available
  • Book your diabetic foot assessment every year
  • If you have difficulty trimming your toenails, or if you get corns or calluses, consider having podiatry nail and skin care every 6-12 weeks, during which your podiatrist will also be able to check for any warning signs related to your diabetes

Is Your Ingrown Toenail Oozing Clear or Yellow Pus? It’s Probably Infected

Ingrown toenails are painful and frustrating enough, so the last thing you want is to add an infection to the mix. Unfortunately, in our experience, a large number of ingrown toenails will get infected if proper treatment is undertaken – and it makes sense when you think about it. Today, our ingrown toenail specialists will be sharing:
  • Why the risk of developing an infection once you have an ingrown toenail is high
  • What you can do to prevent an infection before it develops
  • How you can treat your ingrown toenail and infection once it has occurred

You Have A Significant Risk Of Developing An Infection. Here’s Why

Let’s clear something up: ingrown toenails and infections are not a case of the chicken and the egg – the ingrown toenail comes first.  What classifies a sore toe as an ‘ingrown toenail’ is the moment that the sharp piece of nail goes from merely pushing against the surrounding skin, to actually piercing it and penetrating it. Think about that for a second – you have a piece of nail that is now constantly inside the skin through a cut down the side of the nail. Every time you walk and move, it’ll move slightly with vibrations of pressures from shoes and socks. Ouch! This also means that while a normal cut occurs and then can heal, this cut can’t – because the ingrown toenail is still constantly piercing it and so keeping the cut open.  An infection occurs when bacteria and other nasties enter the body. Usually, our skin is a fantastic barrier, so while there may be many nasties around us regularly, they never have an ‘in’. Until now. And especially at the ground where you may walk barefooted. And when you give it a perfectly placed entrance – there’s a strong chance that the infection will take hold and start to develop. Once the infection takes hold, it means increased swelling, pain and oozy discharge (and maybe blood) that is yellow/green/clear in nature and may ‘crust over’. 

Preventing An Infection From Your Ingrown Toenail Before It Develops

So how, then, can we prevent – or at least reduce the risk – of developing an infection? It’s quite simple, really. And no – no Epsom salts required just yet! As the cut from ingrown toenail creates an ‘in’ for the bacteria to take hold, the way to prevent an infection is to remove this ‘in’. This means removing the penetrating nail edge so that the cut can heal, close, and no longer be vulnerable to the infection. Simple, right? – Absolutely.

So How Do I Treat My Ingrown Toenail – And The Infection If I Already Have One?

The best way to ensure the proper care of your ingrown toenail is to see your Podiatrist. Our team here at the Ingrown Toenail Clinic are Podiatrists that are trained in simple and painless ingrown toenail surgeries, as well as conservative care where we safely remove that small, pesky nail edge in a matter of minutes. You’ll feel the relief almost instantly! We don’t recommend trying to cut back the nail at home because often the nail runs much deeper than you can see, so most people will miss removing the complete penetrating edge and their pain will only continue to worsen. You also won’t have the right tools for the job – whereas we have everything needed to do it quickly and easily – even anaesthetic if you need or want it! (though most people don’t). Once the sliver of nail is removed, the body will be able to effectively heal the wound and fight the infection – and of course, we’ll help it along by dressing it with betadine (antiseptic). You’re welcome to soak it in some Epsom salts too – but once the nail is out, it should be relatively simple and straightforward for it to heal and the infection to subside. No more painful, swollen discharge – hooray!

Auckland’s Ingrown Toenail Experts

Perform Podiatry are proud to be home to the Auckland Ingrown Toenail Clinic – specialising in the safe and effective care of ingrown toenails – and we do a really good job of it! From simple and easy care to quickly remove the small nail edge, to minor nail surgery to permanently correct ingrown toenails, we’ve got you covered.   You can book online here or give us a call on (09) 523 2333.