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Ingrown ToenailsBy: Foot and Ankle Center of Iowa

Dr. Jesseka Kaldenberg-Leppert

Ingrown toenails are a painful, yet common foot and ankle problem. Ingrown toenails are caused by multiple things including toenail fungus, hereditary shape of the nail, nail deformities, trauma, etc. When an ingrown toenail occurs, the nail grows downward into the skin instead of out to the surface that is trimmed. This causes the toenail to cut into the skin, which allows easier access for bacteria to enter the area and cause infection. Symptoms can include pain, redness, drainage, and swelling of the toe. The most common spot for ingrown toenails to occur is on both sides of the big toe.

When you visit the Foot and Ankle Center of Iowa, your foot and ankle specialists will initially perform a consultation. At this consultation, they will examine your foot and the ingrown nail. Your foot doctor may require x-rays depending on the level of infection. X-rays will allow your foot and ankle physician to determine if the infection has gone to deeper levels of soft tissue or to the bone. X-rays will be reviewed with you by your foot doctor.  Following examination, your foot doctor will discuss different treatment options with you which may include antibiotic usage or a procedure to remove the ingrown nail.

There are multiple procedures which can be performed for your ingrown toenail. Your foot and ankle doctor will discuss these with you as well as formulate a treatment plan that best fits your foots needs. Below are the different procedures your foot and ankle doctor may discuss with you.

  • Nail avulsion: In this case, the doctor will numb your toe with local anesthetic. Once numb, the doctor will remove the whole toenail or affected border(s) and allow the nail to regrow. It takes several months for the nail to regrow. During regrowth of the nail, there may be certain medications, such as antifungals, which your foot doctor recommends using.
  • Matrixectomy: In this case, your foot doctor will numb your toe with local anesthetic. Once numb, the doctor will remove the whole toenail or affected border(s) and use a chemical to kill the nail bed. This means that the toenail or affected border(s) will not regrow. This is a permanent procedure.

Below are some tips to help prevent ingrown toenails:

  • Cut nails straight across
  • Avoid “bathroom surgery”
    • Avoid trying to remove ingrown toenail yourself, this can cause increased pain and increased risk for infection
  • If you notice swelling, redness, warmth or drainage from an ingrown toenail, apply antibiotic ointment and a band aid and call your foot and ankle doctor

Contact Foot & Ankle Center of Iowa for an appointment to discuss your foot and ankle concerns.

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