Ingrown toenails are nails that have begun to grow into the soft tissue surrounding the nail bed instead of growing on the surface of the skin. They most often occur in people who wear shoes that are very tight in the toes or in people who have very thick or curved toenails. They can also form as a result of improper toenail trimming, where the nail is trimmed in a curve shape instead of straight across, leaving rounded edges that tend to grow into the skin instead of straight outward. Without proper care, ingrown toenails can cause serious infections to occur, especially in people with compromised immune systems and those with circulation or nerve-related problems like in people with diabetes.
Because ingrown toenails are associated with potentially serious infections, it’s always better to have them treated professionally so the nail can be trimmed away and the underlying tissue can be treated. Professional care also ensures any existing infection can be treated with antibiotics.
Ingrown toenail surgery is used to remove all or a portion of the toenail to prevent infection and make it easier to treat the nail bed. Surgery is performed in the office using a powerful local anesthetic with no need for general anesthesia or sedation. Once the nail area is numbed, special tools are used to gently remove the nail; then, the tissue is treated with a solution to prevent the nail from growing into the edge of the nail bed. Surgery typically takes less than a half hour to perform and involves very little bleeding.
Recovery following ingrown toenail surgery is relatively quick, and casting is not required. Most people can wear their regular shoes while the nail area heals. If ingrown toenails area a recurrent problem, custom orthotics may be prescribed to ensure ample room in the toe area, so the nail is not pushed against the tender skin at the edge of the nail bed. Permanent nail removal is also an option.
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