When Should I See the Doctor About My Ingrown Toenail?

Mar 16, 2020

Trust us on this one: you never, ever want to wait too long to visit us about your ingrown toenail.

Unfortunately, we see it all the time. Several times per week, in fact. Patients walk in and their toes are absolutely throbbing in pain. Sometimes it’s so bad that they can barely put on a pair of socks without agony.

Obviously, you never want to let your ingrown toenail reach that point. But that still doesn’t answer the question asked by the title of this blog. When is the right time to see a doctor about your ingrown toenail?

In our opinion, the answer to that question is now. As in, right away when you notice it. Don’t wait.

Although some podiatrists might disagree, we strongly believe that seeking professional help immediately for your ingrown toenail is by far the best choice.

To learn why read on.

ankle treatment

An Untreated Toenail Can Become A Major Issue

We’ve already touched on this in the intro, but let’s flesh it out a bit.

Mild ingrown toenails rarely stay that way, especially if you don’t make much of an effort to deal with it. Every day, that toenail gets longer, and it digs farther and farther into and through the toe.

What this means is that:

  • Your pain continues to increase. That nail is putting intense pressure on a really sensitive part of your body that isn’t capable of handling it.
  • Sensitivity can become extreme. As we said, sometimes just the pressure or jolt from bumping into the front of your shoe can send your pain through the roof.
  • Eventually, the ingrown toenail will cut through the skin, creating a small wound. That wound can easily get infected and, if you don’t deal with that, the infection can spread and reach the bone. We might be looking at a toe amputation in an extreme case.

People who have diabetes or neuropathy are at especially significant risk since they can’t always feel the pain, nor are their immune systems as good at fighting off an infection. In other words, they might not notice anything is even wrong until it’s really wrong.

However, you certainly don’t need either of these conditions for ingrown toenails to become extremely serious.

Since the condition of your toe can rapidly progress from a mild to more moderate or severe change, we don’t feel it’s worth the risk to take the chance.

Home Treatments Aren’t All They’re Cracked Up to Be

Unfortunately, a Google search for ingrown toenail home care treatments will undoubtedly return tons of results—including from many reputable medical sites. So if you’re a patient who likes to be able to handle things on their own, and you don’t call us first, you may feel confident going down that road to start.

Here’s the honest truth about home remedies like foot soaks, though:

We’re not saying that they never work. In some cases, they can be effective. But from our perspective, the potential downsides just aren’t worth it. Home remedies require too much time and luck, and there’s too great a risk that they will backfire.

Number one, even when successful, they usually take several days to work at a minimum. That’s still a lot of pain and inconvenience to deal with.

Number two, the longer that ingrown toenail remains in a “not healed” state, the greater the opportunity for infection. Even if it seems to be getting better at first, you’re definitely not out of the woods yet.

And number three, a large percentage of people who get ingrown toenails continue to get them again and again unless professional intervention is undertaken.

Once again, it’s a matter of risk versus benefit. Home treatments are both riskier than professional care, and they don’t provide as much of a benefit. So why bother with them at all?

Good question.

ingrown toenail

We Can Eliminate Your Ingrown Toenails (For Good) In a Single Afternoon

Seriously. Plus it isn’t painful, it isn’t scary, and the aftercare is very manageable. In fact, some of our ingrown toenail patients are as young as 4 or 5 years old, and they tend to handle it very well. So you can too!

First things first: we check for an infection. If you have one (and it’s severe), we may need to get that under control with a week or two of antibiotics. If you have no infection or a mild one, we can usually go on to step two.

(Yes, this is another great reason not to wait to seek care.)

What is step two? A quick removal of the ingrown edge of the nail under a local anesthetic. It really is painless, and by the time your toe regains sensation, you’ll already feel an incredible amount of improvement.

When we remove the ingrown edge, we will also usually remove the corresponding part of the nail matrix. This means that the edge of your nail cannot grow back. Or in other words: no more ingrown toenails, ever.

After the procedure is finished, we bandage your toe and send you on your way. You’ll get some aftercare instructions on soaking your toe and changing your bandages, and you may have to avoid certain athletic activities for a week or two. But most people are able to return to normal activities (work, school, walking, etc.) immediately.

The Time to Call Is Now

Most people avoid seeing the doctor for what they perceive as “minor” problems because they think it’ll make their lives easier.

But as you can see, getting your ingrown toenail fixed by one of our specialists is actually the path of least resistance. There is instant pain relief, a much lower risk of infection and complications, and almost no risk of recurrence if you opt for the matrix procedure.

So regardless of how mild or severe your ingrown toenail is, just give us a call. We are happy to help, and will get you back on your feet and feeling great as quickly as possible!

You can schedule at any of our convenient office locations in either Missouri or Kansas by calling us at (816) 455-1155. Alternatively, you can request an appointment using our handy online form, and we’ll get back to you during regular office hours.