How to Know If Your Ingrown Toenail Is Infected

How to Know If Your Ingrown Toenail Is Infected

An ingrown toenail occurs when your nail grows into the skin of your nail bed, instead of extending beyond it. The result is pain, swelling, and inflammation. You can get an ingrown toenail on any toe, but your big toe is most at risk. 

Without treatment, an ingrown toenail can become infected, causing severe pain. The infection can also spread throughout your body, causing complications. 

You’re at a higher risk of complications if you have certain chronic conditions such as diabetes. It’s essential to recognize the signs of an ingrown toenail infection so you can get medical attention immediately.

David J. Kaplan, DPM is an expert in diagnosing and treating ingrown toenails at FootCare Specialists, Inc. in San Mateo and Half Moon Bay, California. Is your ingrown toenail infected? Here’s how to tell.

Signs of an infected ingrown toenail 

An ingrown toenail may be slightly swollen and painful. However, following are some of the telltale signs that your ingrown toenail has become infected: 

You may notice that the area on and around your toe feels warm or hot to the touch. Any existing toenail issues could complicate matters. 

All ingrown toenails are potentially dangerous

Ingrown toenails are common, but they’re not always benign. Ingrown toenails are vulnerable to both fungal and bacterial infections. Methicillin-resistant bacterial infections pose the greatest danger. Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA), sometimes known as a Staph infection, is serious and antibiotic-resistant.

An ingrown toenail infection may affect more than just the flesh in the toe; it can travel to the bone. In severe cases, a Staph infection requires intravenous treatment. At the first sign of an infected toenail, it’s important that you seek medical attention.

Treatment for an infected toenail

An infected toenail is treated in various ways, depending on the extent of the infection and any underlying issues. For bacterial infections, Dr. Kaplan may also prescribe oral or topical antibiotics.

Nail lift

When the nail hasn’t dug deeply into the side of your toe, we may be able to perform a nail lift. After we lift the nail's edge, we can place a splint underneath it to separate it from the toe so the nail grows out properly.

Partial nail removal

When your infected toenail is more severe, we may have to remove part of it. This method entails numbing the area surrounding the ingrown nail and then removing the ingrown section of the nail. 

Full nail removal 

When your ingrown nail is severely infected, or if you have recurrent ingrown toenails, we may advise a full nail removal. Dr. Kaplan removes the ingrown section of the nail as well as the surrounding tissue and may apply a medication or laser that inhibits nail development and reduces the likelihood of recurrence.

If you have an ingrown toenail, get relief and avoid infection — or treat an infection that’s already in progress — by contacting our office nearest you by phone or online form today.

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