Anyone who ever dealt with the discomfort of ingrown toenails knows how aggravating they can be.
But are ingrown toenails dangerous?
An ingrown toenail is highly unlikely to be fatal, or even seriously debilitating. Nonetheless, if left untreated – especially in an individual who already has an underlying medical condition that causes impaired blood flow to the feet -- an ingrown toenail can result in some serious complications.
An ingrown toenail occurs when the corner or the side of a toenail, usually on the big toe, grows into the soft flesh of the toe, causing pain, redness, swelling, and in more serious cases, infection. Common causes include wearing shoes that crowd your toes, cutting your toenails too short and/or not cutting the toenails straight across, and injury.
Generally, patients – and their doctors – tend to agree that the condition is annoying more than dangerous and in fact can usually be resolved with minor treatment, often self-applied at home. Such home treatments can include soaking your feet in warm water, placing floss or cotton under the toenail to encourage growth away from the sides of the toe, and antibiotic creams.
However, like any other medical condition, severity coupled with other underlying conditions can make for more serious, even dangerous complications. For example, people with diabetes need to be especially careful because of the poor blood circulation in lower extremities associated with the disease.
So what are the dangers of ingrown toenails?
The biggest concern is that of infection. Left untreated, such an infection can spread to the underlying bone. Gangrene, a condition in which the tissue dies and decays, leaving an open sore is another major concern. Such complications are especially of concern to people who have diabetes or other conditions in which blood circulation to the lower extremities is impaired. In fact, left untreated, such condition can lead to amputations.
If you are experiencing severe pain, pus discharge, or already have such an underlying medical condition, you should go ahead and see a doctor.
If you live in the greater Washington, D.C. area, Family Foot and Ankle Associates of Maryland, with offices in Silver Spring, Olney, Clinton and Kensington, might be a good source for further information. For more information go to www.marylandfeet.com or call 301-924-5044, 301-439-0300, 301-868-7670, or 301-942-8110.