When does an ingrown toenail require a visit to the podiatrist?
An ingrown toenail is one of the most common problems that can affect your feet. In some cases, if you apply proper home care, such as keeping the area clean and dry, an ingrown toenail will correct itself.

But if your ingrown toenail doesn't go away quickly, it may bother you when you're wearing shoes or walking. And if left untreated, an ingrown toenail can create an infection that can spread to your bones.

Our team wants to help you understand this common issue and when it might warrant a trip to see us. Let's first look at the causes and symptoms of ingrown toenails.

Common causes of ingrown toenails

You have an ingrown toenail when the front edge or side of a nail painfully digs into the soft tissue at the outer edges of your nail bed. Healthy nails, on the other hand, grow directly from the nail grooves.

Some of the most important factors that contribute to the development of ingrown toenails include:

  • Shoes that squeeze or pinch your toes together
  • Cut nails too short
  • Cut your nails with a curve instead of straight
  • Nail injury (for example, from stubbing your toe or dropping something heavy on it)
  • Hereditary factors that cause your nails to curve rather than grow straight

Ingrown toenails are most common on the big toe, but any toenail can grow inward. Your nail may be ingrown on one or both sides of the nail.

Symptoms of an ingrown toenail

At first, the symptoms of an ingrown toenail are usually mild. You might feel an uncomfortable feeling when you touch the affected nail, wiggle your toes, or squeeze into shoes with a tight toe box, for example.

Over time, however, the ingrown toenail can get worse, causing symptoms such as:

  • Persistent pain that occurs in your toe along one or both sides of the nail
  • Swelling and redness of the affected toe
  • Drainage, pus and other symptoms of infection surrounding the nail

When to visit a specialist?

If you have healthy feet, you can wait to make an appointment with a specialist until the ingrown toenail is causing pain or you notice redness, swelling, or other signs of trouble.

Typically, you can try home care for about a week, but don't wait to seek treatment if it doesn't heal by then. Even healthy people can develop an infection that can quickly spread to the affected toe bone.

Prevent ingrown toenails

There are many things you can do to reduce the risk of ingrown toenails, including:

  • Cut your nails regularly
  • Cut your toenails across
  • Wear well-fitting shoes with a roomy toe box that doesn't overload your toes
  • Regularly check your feet (every day if you have diabetes) for nails growing inward