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End the Pain: Effective Ingrown Toenail Treatments

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Podiatrist providing ingrown toenail treatment


March 31, 2024

What is an Ingrown Toenail?

Ingrown Toenail Removal Surgery

An ingrown toenail is a condition in which the side or top of the toenail grows into the surrounding skin. An ingrown toenail without infection is simply a painful toenail edge, but with infection, it is essentially a foreign body lodged in the nail groove of the toe.

An ingrown toenail can arise on its own, from cutting the edges improperly, tight-fitting shoes or from trauma and fungal infections. Ingrown toenail pain ranges from dull to sharp depending upon the level of irritation and compression of the nail edge(s).

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Understanding Ingrown Toenails

Ingrown toenails, also known as onychocryptosis, occur when the corners or sides of the nail dig painfully into the surrounding soft tissue. This condition most commonly affects the big toe but can occur on other toes as well.

Causes of ingrown toenails include:

  • Improperly-trimmed nails
  • Heredity
  • Shoe pressure or crowding of toes
  • Repeated trauma to the feet from normal activities
  • Infection surrounding the nail

Symptoms of Ingrown Toenails

  • Patients with ingrown toenails may experience the following symptoms:
  • Pain and tenderness along the nail border
  • Redness and swelling
  • Drainage
  • Infection surrounding the nail
  • Odor
  • Prominent skin tissue (proud flesh)

How We Treat Ingrown Toenails

Depending on the severity of pain and discomfort, we provide the option of either conservative ingrown toenail treatment or surgical toenail treatment.

When it comes to the question of opting for conservative treatment — such as lifestyle changes, shoe alterations, and pain medications — or instead choosing ingrown toenail surgery, it really depends on the age, particular issue, and health of the individual.

While conservative treatment may alleviate some of the discomfort associated with ingrown toenails, it can’t be considered an actual cure for the overgrowth.

We have found that patients want both a permanent procedure where the painful nail edge does not return, and a more aesthetically pleasing cosmetic outcome as well. Moore Foot and Ankle Specialists use a surgical technique that spares the rest of the toenail, and only removes a smaller portion, thus preserving normal appearance and width.

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Conservative Ingrown Toenail Treatment Options

A number of conservative treatment options are available for those suffering from an ingrown toenail, including the following:

Wear Different Shoes

A larger, softer shoe can relieve the direct or indirect pressure from ingrown toenails. Make sure that the shoe has enough room at the end about the width of your thumb and that the toe box (front of the shoe) is high enough to allow your toes to move freely.

Take Medication

Nail-softening products, such as topical creams, gels, and solutions, can ease the pain and pressure of a painful ingrown toenail. Antibiotic medication may be necessary for acute infections.

Add Padding

Over-the-counter padding can be worn in between the toes or behind the nail edge to help ease discomfort associated with an ingrown toenail.

Trim the Nail

Cutting the nail edges straight across without cutting the corners will prevent the skin at the edges from growing over the nail (becoming an ingrown toenail). Once the nail is ingrown, the painful edge(s) can be angled at the end by a professional to temporarily relieve the pressure and/or infection.

Surgical Treatment for Ingrown Toenails

Surgical treatment for ingrown toenails takes place in the office, quickly and painlessly with a local anesthetic.

Over the years we have developed a technique where removing a large piece of the toenail is not necessary, rather we are able to remove only the piece that disappears down into the nail fold.

The edge is removed to relieve the pressure, and a topical chemical agent can be applied (depending on the status of infection) to prevent the ingrown edge from returning permanently.

Full weight-bearing is allowed immediately following the procedure, without restrictions.

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Insurance Coverage for Ingrown Toenail Removal / Surgery

Navigating insurance coverage for medical procedures, such as ingrown toenail removal or surgery, can be complex. Our health insurance policies generally provide coverage for ingrowing toenail treatment when deemed medically necessary, including cases of infected ingrown toenails or severe ingrown toenails.

Before proceeding with treatment, it's crucial to engage with your insurance provider to understand your coverage fully, including any requirements for referrals or pre-authorizations. For conditions affecting the nail bed or nail fold, detailed documentation from your healthcare provider may assist in ensuring coverage.

Moreover, discussing anticipated out-of-pocket costs with our healthcare facility can provide a clearer financial picture before undergoing ingrown nail treatment. For more details on navigating insurance coverage for our treatments, please visit our Modern Foot Ankle Insurance for severe ingrown toenail removal surgery.

Why Choose Us

Selecting the right care provider is essential when facing foot and ankle issues, especially for treatments like ingrown toenail surgery or managing a mild ingrown toenail. Here's why our practice, as detailed on our website, stands out:

Expertise in Ingrown Toenail Management

Our team specializes in diagnosing and treating ingrown toenails, employing both traditional and advanced techniques to provide relief. Whether it's a straightforward case or a complex infected ingrown toenail, we have the expertise to handle it.

Advanced Surgical Options

For those requiring ingrown toenail surgery, our surgeons are skilled in minimally invasive procedures, including partial nail avulsion, which preserves as much of the healthy nail bed and nail fold as possible, ensuring quicker recovery and aesthetic outcomes.

Conservative Treatment Strategies

We explore all conservative options before recommending surgery. From advising on proper footwear to using non-invasive methods like dental floss techniques for treating ingrown toenails, we prioritize treatments that cause the least disruption to our patients' lives.

Personalized Care Plans

Each ingrown nail case is unique, and we tailor our treatment plans to the individual's condition, lifestyle, and health goals.

Comprehensive Aftercare Support

Post-treatment care, especially after ingrown toenail surgery, is crucial. Our team provides detailed aftercare instructions and support to prevent recurrence and ensure a smooth recovery.

Education and Prevention

We empower our patients with knowledge on how to prevent ingrown toenails, including proper nail care techniques and footwear recommendations.

Insurance and Financial Guidance

Our administrative staff is experienced in working with various insurance providers to ensure that your treatment for ingrown toenails is covered. We also provide guidance on managing any out-of-pocket expenses.

For more information on our services, expertise, and how we can help you manage or treat your ingrown toenail, please visit our website. Our comprehensive approach ensures not only the treatment of ingrown nails but also the minimization of their recurrence, emphasizing our commitment to your health and comfort.

In Summary

  1. Ingrown toenails, ranging from mild ingrown toenails to severe, can significantly impact your daily life. While insurance often covers necessary treatments like ingrown toenail removal surgery, understanding the specifics of your coverage is key.
  2. Our practice stands out for its comprehensive approach to managing ingrown toenails, offering everything from advanced toenail surgery options to conservative treatments and personalized care plans.
  3. By focusing on specialized techniques, patient education, and preventive measures, we ensure not just the treatment of ingrown nails but also the minimization of their recurrence. Choosing us means opting for a practice that values your health, comfort, and financial peace of mind.

The information on our website is intended for general informational and educational purposes only and should not be used as a substitute for professional medical advice. For any health-related concerns, we strongly recommend consulting with a healthcare professional. Please note that any reliance on the information found on our site is solely at your own risk. For more details, please see our Medical Disclaimer.


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What causes an ingrown toenail?

Technically, an ingrown toenail is where either edge of the toenail is causing pain or growing too deep into the nail groove. Over time, the pressure can build up calluses that create more pain if not removed, or even cause an infection if it pierces the skin. Tight shoe gear is a common cause for ingrown toenails, as well as improper trimming of the nail corners, and genetic trending.

When should you go to the doctor for an ingrown toenail?

Most patients wait until the nail edge is infected, but it is best to have your ingrown toenail treated or removed if there is any chronic pain or discomfort. If the infection is moderate to severe, the permanent procedure cannot be performed. The nail edge or foreign body is removed to relieve the pain and treat the infection with antibiotics. Then the patient can return to have the nail edge removed permanently in two to three weeks, when the nail edge is healed.

Why does my ingrown toenail hurt so bad?

Ingrown toenails can be very painful because the extremities (fingers and toes) have very sensitive nerve endings. The nail edge is also sharp and combined with increased pressure from a shoe, an infection can add to the level of pain.

What does a podiatrist do for an ingrown toenail?

The simplest procedure that a podiatrist can perform for an ingrown toenail is to trim the edge to relieve the pain and rule out deeper, more serious problems (bone infection) with an X-ray. If there is no infection, or minimal infection, the permanent procedure (Matrixectomy) can be performed, where the nail edge is removed and the root of the nail is treated to prevent the edge from growing back.

How do I stop my ingrown toenail from coming back?

There are several ways to stop an ingrown toenail from coming back. “Killing the root,” or Matrixectomy, can remove the ingrown toenail surgically, chemically, or even with cautery and laser techniques. The most common chemical solution is a weak acid called Phenol. This chemical cautery or burn prevents the nail edge from returning with only an average 5-10% failure rate.

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Our foot and ankle specialists can create custom orthotics and recommend footwear to help alleviate foot pain and improve your mobility.

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