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What is an ingrown toenail and how do they occur? 

An ingrown toenail is defined as a condition in which the nail grows into the soft flesh on the side of the nail. It typically occurs on the big toes however it can occur on any toenail. A few examples that can cause an ingrown toenail are inadequate fitting shoes, improper nail trimming , trauma/injury, naturally curved toenails, or excessive pressure on nails due to foot deformities.

The symptoms you may develop when this occurs is pain and tenderness at the site, redness, swelling, and an infection in the tissue surrounding the nail. If you notice that the redness is spreading, the pain is increasing, or pus draining from the toe you should schedule an appointment by contacting us. We will schedule you in a timely manner to come into our office for a consultation with one of our foot and ankle specialists where he/she will examine your toe and determine the best treatment plan. The first visit is a consultation unless it is deemed medically necessary by the provider to continue with the procedure same day. The procedure itself is scheduled for another day due to the length and the possibility for antibiotics to be needed prior to the procedure.

Most of the time the doctors recommend a procedure that permantly kills part or all of the nail root so that the ingrown toenail does not grow back and cause continued pain and/or infection. Many times, it is just a small sliver of the nail that needs to be removed and small part of the root killed, so the nail continues to look normal, but the ingrown problem is solved. 

What should you expect the day of the procedure?

When coming in for your appointment the process begins by reviewing and understanding the procedure that is going to occur and signing consent forms with one of our medical assistants. The doctor will then come in and inject local anesthetic into the toe so it is numb for the procedure. It takes approximately 15 minutes for the numbing effect to set in before the procedure can begin. The doctor will ensure that you are unable to feel anything besides possibly slight pressure. The procedure itself is relatively quick although you will be kept for approximately 15 minutes following with your foot elevated to ensure that any bleeding has stopped. All post-procedure instructions will be reviewed during that time as well as a handout given with all the information needed.

What are your restrictions following the procedure?

There are no restrictions for driving or wearing shoes following the procedure. We instruct you to take it easy with only light activity the day of the procedure to limit bleeding and promote overall healing. The next day following your procedure you are allowed to resume normal activity as tolerable.  It is normal to notice slight tenderness at the site for a few weeks following.


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Author Foot & Ankle Center of Iowa

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