It’s important to seek prompt medical attention for an infected ingrown toenail. The right treatment stops the infection from spreading and prevents potentially serious complications, which may include issues like:
- Cellulitis, or bacterial skin infections
- Paronychia — infection around the nail
- Permanent nail deformity
- Osteomyelitis — bone infection
- Systemic infection — an infection that spreads to the bloodstream
- Difficult to treat infections, such as gangrene
At Arlington/Mansfield Foot & Ankle Centers in Texas, our board-certified podiatrists understand the frustration ingrown toenails can bring. Our team can identify when an ingrown toenail is infected and specializes in providing safe and effective treatment.
But how can you tell when your nail is infected? Here’s what you need to know:
What causes ingrown toenails?
You can get an ingrown toenail for different reasons, but the most common include cutting your toenails too short and wearing ill-fitting shoes that pinch or cramp your toes. Other possible reasons you can get ingrown toenails include:
- Trauma to the nail or nail bed
- Underlying health problem with the nail (e.g., fungal infection)
- Congenital toenail problems or defects or genetics
Although the most common place people develop ingrown toenails is the big toe or longest toe, they can develop on any toe.
How can I tell if my ingrown toenail is infected?
When an ingrown toenail gets infected, scheduling an appointment with a podiatrist as soon as possible is important. To ensure you get the medical attention needed, here’s a look at five common signs of an infected ingrown toenail:
Increasing pain and soreness
An infected ingrown toenail often has increasingly severe pain and tenderness around the affected area. The pain can be throbbing and persistent, making walking or wearing regular shoes difficult or uncomfortable.
When an ingrown toenail is warm to the touch, red, and swollen, it’s a sign of increased blood flow to the area. This is because the infection can cause inflammation. If you notice this sign, it’s time to schedule a checkup with a podiatrist.
Pus or drainage
An obvious sign of infection is pus or discharge from or around the ingrown toenail. This discharge can be yellow or green and might have a bad odor. Infected ingrown toenails may also bleed or have blood tinged with pus.
Increasing sensitivity to touch
When even the slightest touch or mildest pressure makes you see stars, it’s a sign your ingrown toenail is probably infected. Infection makes your skin highly sensitive to sensations, making going about your daily activities a struggle.
Fever or feeling generally unwell
In rare cases, an infected toenail can lead to systemic, or whole body, infection. This can trigger symptoms like fever, chills, and general malaise or “feeling unwell.” Be sure to seek immediate medical attention if this develops.
What does a podiatrist do for ingrown toenails?
You may treat an infected ingrown toenail in several ways. Your Arlingtonton/Mansfield Foot & Ankle Centers provider evaluates your condition to make personalized ingrown toenail treatment recommendations.
While the exact treatment method depends on the severity of your infection and any other related or underlying condition, here’s a look at some of the most common ways a podiatrist treats infected ingrown toenails:
Your podiatrist may prescribe oral or topical antibiotics to combat a bacterial infection. Oral antibiotics are typically prescribed for moderate infections, while more serious infections may necessitate a combination of oral and topical antibiotics.
For ingrown toenails in the early stages with only mild signs of infection, your podiatrist may perform a nail lift. This works best for nails that haven’t grown too deeply into the skin of your toe. Your provider lifts the edge of the affected nail, then separates the nail from the soft tissue. In some cases, your podiatrist may place a splint beneath the nail to help it grow out properly.
Partial nail avulsion
If your infected ingrown toenail is more severe, or if you get recurrent ingrown toenails, your podiatrist may recommend a partial nail avulsion, or removal. This procedure involves numbing the area surrounding the ingrown nail, removing a portion of it, and applying a physical or chemical treatment to stop it from regrowing incorrectly.
Complete nail avulsion
For severely infected ingrown toenails or chronic ingrown toenails, your podiatrist may recommend a complete nail avulsion, or removal. Your podiatrist numbs the toe, then removes the ingrown section of the nail and the surrounding tissue. The nail naturally grows back, but with the guidance of your podiatrist, you can reduce the risk of another ingrown toenail.
Concerned about an ingrown toenail? Schedule an appointment online or over the phone with a provider at Arlington/Mansfield Foot & Ankle Center at the Texas location nearest you.