By Christopher Chung, DPM
Ingrown toenails are one of the most common issues that most people can relate to regarding their feet.
At some point in our lives most of us understand how painful an ingrown toenail can really be, especially when left untreated.
You might have heard of the usual ways people deal with them; clipping the ingrown nail out yourself, wearing open toed shoes to prevent pressure on the toe or simply ignoring the pain. To be fair, sometimes these options may seem to take care of the problem in a pinch, but they all will eventually lead to a toe infection.
Ingrown nails are usually caused by 4 main causes; genetics, tight shoes, biomechanics and trauma. In most cases, your toenails might naturally retain a certain amount of curvature which makes them prone to growing into the neighboring nail skinfold. At the same time, a tight pair of shoes will sandwich the skin between the nail and the shoe and cause the same issue. If you have a bunion, then you end up pushing off the side of your big toe when walking, which can pinch the side of your nail. Lastly if you stub your big toe in the right way, it may force that corner of the nail to imbed itself in your skin.
So you might ask yourself, “What’s the big deal? A little infection isn’t the worst thing in the world, right?”. Unfortunately, many make the same but false assumption. An infection can vary in degrees. A superficial simple infection may be resolved with a topical triple antibiotic cream. However with a progressed ingrown infection, an abscess can form. Think of an abscess as a pus pocket. Once it’s planted deep in your skin, it becomes ground zero for an infection that can burrow deep in your skin, bone or even your bloodstream. Why take the chance?
Would you wait to see your dentist if your tooth gets infected and you knew it would only get worse if left untreated? If you noticed a leak in your sink, would you wait until it gets so bad you need to renovate the whole bathroom and the room below? Let’s not wait for things to get worse, because the longer we wait, less favorable options are available.