What is an ingrown toenail?
An ingrown toenail is simply a curving of the nail border into the flesh of the toe. When the pressure from the curved or deformed nail becomes excessive, the underlying skin or tissue is pierced or opened and this provides entry for harmful bacteria. It is common for bacteria to be around the nail without an infection. However, when the skin breaks and these bacteria enter the area, a bacterial infection begins. Ingrown nails can also result from the development of fungus in the nails which cause deformity and secondary bacterial infection. Some people will not get an infection initially but will just have pain and redness.
Signs of an infection include pain, redness, swelling, foul odor and yellow drainage. Many people develop ingrown toenail infections on a regular basis. These are often treated with soaking and antibiotic pills. Typically, these treatments only provide short term relief.
If the infection has been present for a long period, x-rays may be taken to make sure there is no bone infection. Bone infection is a serious problem and must be treated in other ways. Also, those with poor circulation can develop gangrene from an infection. It is highly recommended that the patient with these conditions seek early treatment to avoid more serious conditions.
Generally, ingrown nails present problems multiple times over a period of months or years. Initially, there is pain and redness which then results in infection.
Why some treatments provide only temporary relief:
Why is only short term relief provided with these seemingly strong treatments? While there is an infection present, it can not be healed without draining the infection or abscess from the side of the toe where the nail is piercing the skin. This piece of nail acts as a foreign body and must be removed for proper healing.
Unfortunately, many people seek treatment for these problems and are treated for months with antibiotics and never heal until they see a Podiatrist for removal of the piece of nail and drainage of the infection. The removal of the nail portion and drainage of the infection should actually be the first treatment received. All other treatments, including antibiotic pills or creams and soaking, are secondary to what is known as incision and drainage or drainage of infection.
Treatments are often done by you, the patient. This is known as “bathroom surgery” and is often performed with various homemade instruments. Often relief will be obtained but eventually many patients end up seeking professional help due to excessive pain and infection.
It should be noted that often after drainage of the infection, oral antibiotics are not always necessary. The problem with taking antibiotics over and over for this condition is that the bacteria modify themselves so that the antibiotic no longer works and antibiotic resistance is the result.
How can I get permanent relief from Ingrown Toenails?
Assuming that the infection is controlled and circulation is adequate for healing, there are procedures to remove the ingrown nail permanently. Normally only a small portion of nail is removed, not the complete nail. The result is cosmetically pleasing once full healing has occurred. There is a 95% success rate!
There are several methods for the permanent procedure. The most common method is using a chemical for the destruction of the nail root or growth area, also known as the matrix. Common chemicals used include phenol and sodium hydroxide.
After removal of the abnormal nail portion, the chemical is then used to destroy the root. A light bandage is applied. Care at home is simple and recovery involves cleaning the area and applying antibiotic cream. Most people have minimal pain after the procedure. Some redness, swelling and clear drainage are normal for several weeks to a month depending on the individual reaction to the chemical. There are rarely complications, however, as with any procedure you physician will review possible complications.
So, there is no need to suffer with ingrown nails when you can have this procedure. The procedure is safe and performed in the office with a local anesthetic. The procedure takes about 10-15 minutes.
Dr. Katz prides himself on compassion and concern for all patients. Dr. Katz specializes in foot infections, wounds and minor in-office procedures. Dr. Katz treats all foot, ankle and leg conditions.
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