patient with a diabetic ingrown toenailIf you have diabetes, taking proper care of your feet is essential. Diabetes is a disease that can cause various medical conditions, including an increased risk of developing ingrown toenails. An ingrown toenail can be uncomfortable and painful, but for people with diabetes, it can be more serious. That is why you should not attempt to treat diabetic ingrown toenails at home without first consulting with an experienced Keller podiatrist first.

How Ingrown Toenails Develop

An ingrown toenail develops when the side or corner of the nail grows into the surrounding skin. Generally, it’s the big toe that’s affected by this common condition. When the nail grows into the skin, it becomes swollen and inflamed, causing a great deal of pain.

A primary cause of an ingrown toenail is cutting the nail too short. If the nail is cut down too far, it will often grow back into the skin around it. Additionally, you should never round the edges of your toenails or cut them so they’re too pointy. Your nails should have clear corners, so they can’t grow back beneath the skin.

Other Factors That Can Cause Ingrown Toenails

  • Tight or ill-fitting footwear 
  • Trauma or injury to your toe
  • Genetic predisposition
  • Abnormal nail shape
  • Poor foot hygiene

Symptoms of an Ingrown Toenail

  • Pain or tenderness along the side of the toenail, especially when wearing shoes
  • Red, swollen skin that may feel warm to the touch
  • Pus or drainage from the side of the nail
  • Discolored skin around the ingrown nail
  • Unpleasant odor from the affected toe area

Diabetes and Ingrown Toenails

While anyone can experience an ingrown toenail, individuals with diabetes face higher risks and complications due to the following reasons:

  • Reduced blood circulation. Diabetes can impair blood flow, especially to the extremities. Poor circulation slows down the healing process and increases the likelihood of infections.
  • Nerve damage. Diabetes can cause nerve damage (known as peripheral neuropathy), particularly in the feet. This condition can diminish the sensation in the affected area, making it difficult to detect early signs of an ingrown toenail or associated infection.
  • Delayed wound healing. Elevated blood sugar levels can hinder the body's ability to heal wounds effectively. As a result, the healing process for ingrown toenails may be prolonged.

The Importance of Seeing a Podiatrist for Diabetic Ingrown Toenails

When dealing with an ingrown toenail, it is vital for diabetic patients to seek professional assistance from a podiatrist as soon as possible rather than attempting to treat it at home. Our Keller podiatrist will thoroughly examine your foot and assess the severity of the ingrown toenail to develop an appropriate treatment plan.

If left untreated, ingrown toenails can lead to severe consequences. One of the most common complications of an ingrown toenail is an infection. When the nail pierces the skin, bacteria can enter the wound, causing redness, swelling, and increased pain. If left untreated, the infection can spread. In addition, an untreated infected ingrown toenail can progress to the formation of an abscess. This is a localized collection of pus that can cause severe pain, tenderness, and swelling.

In diabetic patients or those with compromised circulation, an ingrown toenail can lead to foot ulcers. Poor healing and reduced sensation in the feet can make it difficult to detect and treat these ulcers, increasing the risk of infection and more severe complications.

Recurring Ingrown Nails

Recurrent or chronic ingrown toenails can lead to nail deformities. The repeated pressure and trauma to the nail matrix can cause the nail to grow irregularly, become thickened, or develop ridges. It is important to seek medical attention from a podiatrist if you experience any complications related to an ingrown toenail. A podiatrist can help prevent the condition from progressing and ensure the optimal health of your feet.

Treating Ingrown Toenails

Podiatrists have extensive knowledge and experience in managing foot conditions related to diabetes. They understand the unique challenges faced by individuals with diabetes and can provide personalized care and treatment strategies to ensure the best outcomes.

When you visit a podiatrist to address an ingrown toenail, they will discuss various treatment options with you. The appropriate course of action will depend on the severity of the condition and your overall health.

Common Treatment Options for an Ingrown Toenail

  • Soaking and elevation. Some ingrown toenails may respond well to warm water soaks and elevating the affected foot to reduce swelling. 
  • Nail trimming. In some cases, a podiatrist may be able to trim the ingrown portion of the toenail and provide guidance on proper nail-cutting techniques to prevent a recurrence.
  • Antibiotics. If an infection is present or suspected, your podiatrist may prescribe antibiotics to control the infection and prevent it from spreading.
  • Orthotics and footwear recommendations. A podiatrist may suggest using orthotic devices or modifying your footwear to relieve pressure on the affected toe and prevent future ingrown toenails.
  • Partial nail removal (nail avulsion). For recurrent or severe ingrown toenails, a podiatrist may recommend removing a portion of the toenail or the entire nail to provide long-term relief.

Tips for Preventing Ingrown Toenails

  • Trim your toenails properly. It is vital that you trim your toenails properly. Always cut your toenails straight across and avoid rounding the corners. This prevents the nails from digging into the surrounding skin.
  • Wear well-fitting shoes. Shoes that are too tight can squeeze your toes, causing the nails to grow into the skin. Choose shoes with a wide toe box that allow your toes to move freely.
  • Avoid tight socks and stockings. Wearing tight socks or stockings can put pressure on your toenails and increase the risk of ingrown nails. Choose breathable, comfortable socks that fit correctly.
  • Practice good foot hygiene. Keep your feet clean and dry to prevent fungal infections that can affect the nails. Regularly wash your feet with mild soap and water, and make sure to dry them thoroughly, especially between the toes.
  • Protect your feet. If you participate in activities that put your feet at risk, such as contact sports or heavy physical work, wear protective footwear to prevent injury to your toes.
  • Avoid picking or tearing at your nails. Picking at your toenails can damage the surrounding skin and increase the likelihood of ingrown nails. 
  • Examine your feet. Not only should you check your feet for any signs of a problem, such as an ingrown toenail, you should schedule an annual exam with your podiatrist.

Following these tips and maintaining good foot care practices can significantly reduce the chances of developing ingrown toenails. Consult a podiatrist for further evaluation and treatment if you have persistent or severe ingrown toenails.

Alliance Foot & Ankle Specialists for Your Foot and Ankle Health

If you have pain in your feet or ankles or suffer from ingrown toenails, it can negatively impact your life and interfere with your daily routine. You need a compassionate, skilled podiatrist to work with you to determine the cause and provide treatment based on your specific needs. With 30 years of experience, the podiatrists at Alliance Foot & Ankle Specialists understand the relationship between your feet and your overall health. Whether your condition requires therapy, orthotics, or surgery, we offer leading-edge medical care to address your unique situation.

We offer patients in the Dallas-Fort Worth area safe, effective, and affordable treatment plans. If you’re struggling with a foot or an ankle problem, call us today at 817-481-4000, or fill out our contact form to make an appointment.