When Does an Ingrown Toenail Require Surgery?

Feb 07, 2023
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Ingrown nails are a common — but painful — foot condition. While some ingrown nails can be managed at home with conservative treatments, that’s not the case for everyone. Read on to identify three signs that your ingrown nail may require surgery.

Ingrown nails are a common foot ailment, and they develop when the side of your nail grows into the edge of the skin surrounding your nail bed. At first, you may notice redness or slight tenderness, but they can quickly escalate and cause throbbing pain.

Anyone can get an ingrown nail, but they’re especially common in people who wear tight shoes, cut their nails too short, or have underlying conditions like diabetes. 

Here at Forward Foot & Ankle, our expert team of providers knows firsthand how painful ingrown nails can be, but thankfully, you never have to walk this journey alone. Our team diagnoses and treats ingrown nails in our offices in Huguenot, Staten Island, and Murray Hill, Manhattan, in New York City. 

In the meantime, let’s take a look at three signs that your ingrown nail may require surgery.

3 reasons your ingrown toenail may require surgery

Not all ingrown nails require surgery. If you spot the early signs of a mildly ingrown nail and take swift action, you may not need surgery. Typical at-home treatments include soaking your affected nail in warm soapy water a few times per day and applying a thin layer of petroleum jelly to your nail (this helps to keep the skin around your nail soft). You may also consider taking over-the-counter anti-inflammatory medication to reduce pain and inflammation. 

It’s also important to avoid anything that exacerbates your symptoms, such as wearing too-tight or ill-fitting shoes. 

That being said, there are times when surgery is the best path forward. Our team here at Forward Foot & Ankle may recommend surgery for your ingrown nail if:

  • You’ve already tried at-home remedies with no relief
  • Your ingrown nails keep returning
  • You have an underlying condition that makes self-treatment risky

Diabetes, in particular, can make foot ailments dangerous to treat on your own. That’s because diabetes can impact the circulation in your feet, and even the smallest cut, blister, or ingrown nail can increase your risk of developing a slow-healing wound. 

If you spot the signs of an ingrown nail and you also have diabetes, skip the at-home remedies and give us a call. 

What happens during surgery for ingrown nails?

Ingrown nails can be quite painful and can increase your risk of developing an infection. Surgery is designed to help eliminate the pain of your ingrown nail while helping to prevent it from occurring in the future.

To prepare you for surgery, our team first cleanses the affected area and administers a local anesthetic to keep you comfortable during your surgery. Once your toe is comfortably numb, your Forward Foot & Ankle provider removes either part of your nail or the entire nail — depending on your unique needs. Keep in mind that many different surgical techniques can treat ingrown nails.  

After ingrown nail surgery, it’s important to take it easy for a few days and keep your foot elevated when you’re relaxing. This helps to reduce any swelling and inflammation. Our team provides you with after-care instructions, which may include:

  • Instructions for taking medication (including oral antibiotics if your nail is infected) 
  • How to care for your nail bed (i.e., keeping it clean and dry until it’s healed)
  • Steps you can take to prevent future nail issues

Don’t suffer from an ingrown nail in silence. Help is just a call or click away. Call the closest location — Staten Island or Manhattan — or reserve your appointment online.