Are you struggling with a painful ingrown toenail? Because most people figure that nail removal is their only treatment option, many folks decide to ignore their toe, which could lead to a serious infection or even a toe amputation. Fortunately, you can avoid gruesome toenail complications by making an appointment with a podiatrist at the first sign of trouble. Here are two non-surgical techniques that your foot doctor might use to treat your ingrown toenail.
1: Watch and Wait
Depending on the nature of your ingrown toenail, there is a chance that it could grow out on its own. Sometimes simple nail care mistakes like trimming too closely or rounding toenail edges can cause problems that correct themselves over time, but a little gentle help from your podiatrist can help the process along. Here are a few non-invasive techniques that your podiatrist might recommend to help your toe to heal.
- Daily Soaking: Some doctors recommend soaking your foot several times a day in warm, clean water. Not only does soaking soften the nail bed and wash away dirt, but it can also improve blood flow to the area, which will promote healing.
- Packing: Because ingrown toenail infections are caused by the nail digging into the side of your toe, you can relieve this pressure by packing the area between the nail and your skin with tiny wedges of clean gauze or tissue. This packing material can give your skin a chance to heal while your toenail grows out.
- Shoe Changes: Until your toenail problem works itself out, your doctor might recommend wearing different shoes. Loose-fitting shoes like slippers or open-toed shoes like sandals will keep pressure off of your toes, so that you don't aggravate the problem.
To monitor the progress of your toe, your podiatrist might ask you to make another appointment in a few weeks. This watch and wait method will help you to avoid more invasive procedures, while allowing your doctor to make sure that you are healing properly.
2: Nail Bracing
Believe it or not, genetics can play a big role in whether or not you are more likely to develop ingrown toenails. If your family has a longstanding history of heavily curled and steeply arched nails, you might end up dealing with painful wounds at one time or another. Fortunately, podiatrists can prevent ingrown toenails from developing in the first place or treat existing problems with nail braces.
Nail braces work by pulling the sides of your toenail slightly upwards, which can keep it from digging into your toe. Hooked nail braces are made of metal, and your podiatrist will position small metal hooks to the sides of your toenail. After this metal brace is secured to your toe with glue, it will keep that nail in line. Metal braces are even adjustable, so your podiatrist might have you come in occasionally to have your brace tightened to relieve additional pressure.
Your doctor can also choose to apply adhesive braces, which normally contain a small, curved plastic piece that is glued to your top of your toenail. These braces are left in place for 2-6 weeks, or until the toenail flattens out on its own.
Because braces start lifting your nail away from the soft flesh of your toe as soon as they are in place, both types will start to relieve your pain immediately. Over time, these braces can train your toenails to grow differently, so that you can steer clear of future problems.
Being familiar with common non-invasive ingrown toenail treatment methods might prompt you to get help earlier rather than later, so that you can hang onto those toes.