An ingrown toenail can seem like a small problem at first, but it can quickly become a major impediment to your daily activities—especially here in the bustling DC area, where people spend a lot of time on their feet. Though this condition can sometimes be treated at home, ingrown nails that become infected or keep coming back are serious and particularly concerning for people with diabetes or poor circulation. If you notice pain, redness, swelling, or extreme sensitivity around the edge or border of a nail, don't ignore it.

While ingrown toenails can be painful, treatment doesn't have to be. Capital Podiatry Associates offers solutions that are quick, easy, provide rapid pain relief, and prevent most ingrowns from returning permanently. Here's what you should know.

About Ingrown Toenails

An ingrown toenail happens when part of the nail starts digging or growing inward into the surrounding skin. This usually happens along the edge of the largest toenail but can affect any toe. Common signs include:

  • Pain along one or both sides of the nail
  • Tenderness, especially when pressed (or accidentally bumped)
  • Redness and swelling around the nail

If the nail becomes infected, the pain can become quite severe. In addition, you may notice a buildup of pus or red streaks extending further up the toe.

Common Causes of Ingrown Toenails

Ingrown toenails can have any number of potential causes. Some of the most common causes and contributing factors include:

  • Wearing constrictive footwear that presses on the toes, such as shoes that are too tight in the toe box area.
  • Cutting your toenails too short or rounding the corners too sharply. (Always cut relatively straight across, and leave just enough "overhang" to get your fingernail under the end of the toenail.)
  • Letting your toenails grow too long. (For most people, trimming every 4 to 6 weeks is sufficient.)
  • Specific injuries or conditions, such as stubbing your toe or having a fungal toenail infection.
  • Having a genetic predisposition to developing ingrown toenails. This is likely the case if they keep coming back again and again.

When to See a Podiatrist

If your ingrowns are severely painful or demonstrating signs of infection like pus or redness, call us immediately. We also recommend that patients with diabetes or poor blood flow to the feet contact us at the first sign of symptoms. However, it's never too early to seek professional care for this condition, regardless of your circumstances.

Mild cases can sometimes be treated at home by avoiding tight shoes and soaking your feet a few times a day, but this process isn't foolproof. It's painful, inconvenient, and takes time, even in the best of circumstances. It can also fail, leaving you in more pain than when you started. By contrast, professional treatment can deliver rapid and safe pain relief in a single appointment.

Our Ingrown Toenail Treatments

In most cases, we will recommend partial nail removal. Although this sounds scary and painful, it really is quite easy and well-tolerated by the vast majority of our patients—including young children.

During this procedure, the toe will be completely numbed using an injection of a local anesthetic, so you should not feel any discomfort. We may also prescribe antibiotics to control or prevent an infection. By the time the anesthetic wears off, you should notice a significant reduction in painful symptoms.

Downtime after the procedure is minimal, and aftercare is fairly straightforward. We usually recommend you take it easy for the rest of the day and keep your foot elevated. You should also avoid wearing tight shoes and may need to avoid strenuous exercise for a few days to a few weeks. However, most people are able to go back to normal activities within 24 hours.

Additionally, if you struggle with chronic ingrown nails, we can also perform a procedure that removes part of the nail bed connected to the side or edge of the nail that keeps growing in. This keeps that part of the nail from growing back and causing any further problems.

Request an Appointment With One of Our Ingrown Toenail Specialists

The sooner you seek our help and guidance for a painful ingrown toenail, the sooner you can get back to living your best life, and the lower your risk of long-term problems or complications.

Give your nails the care they deserve. Contact us online or call our Alexandria office at (703) 560-3773 to request an appointment. We understand how seriously an ingrown toenail can affect your life, and we will make every effort to see you as soon as possible.