- Diseases, Disorders & Conditions
Ingrown Toenail Treatment and Prevention
Tearing the corner off my big toenail seemed like a smart move. This came into doubt when my toe became an infected, oozing eyesore a day or two later. How could a grown man inflict such a grievous wound on himself under the guise of trimming his toenail? I have no answer. I could have trimmed it better with a chainsaw.
Soon I was sitting in the examination room at my doctor's office, scared and alone.
When he examined my toe, my doctor was probably thinking, “What kind of fool is this man who can't trim his toenails?” But that's not what he said. He simply gave me the bad news and instructed me to lay on my back on the examination table. At least I wasn't able to observe the grizzly procedure that followed.
"This might sting."
“I'm going to numb your toe," said my doctor. Then came the soft sell: "This might sting.” This man was about to poke a long needle into my big toe.
I lay on my back, waiting nervously while the doctor assembled his tools of torture. After a minute he told me he was ready to go. Maybe he was, but I wasn't. The “sting” turned out to be a horrible, piercing pain. I like to think I screamed quietly.
All this, and the procedure was yet to come. Out came the snippers.
Anesthetics seem to work best after a procedure is completed. During the operation, they accomplish nothing. After you shriek a few times, the doctor asks if you want more anesthetic. Well … yeah. He administers another shot, causing another bloodcurdling exclamation, then resumes cutting immediately. Thanks so much. Bastard.
At least the procedure was mercifully quick, except for the doctor's deciding once or twice, as I quaked in fear, that he needed to excise “just a bit more” of my toenail to make sure "we've got it all.”
The Great Toenail
Doctors like big words. To a doctor, you don't have an ingrown toenail. You have onychocryptosis. This condition “most commonly affects the great toenail,” say Drs. Joel J. Heidelbaugh and Hobart Lee on the “American Family Physician” website. “The great toenail” seems like some object of fear or worship, like Charlie Brown's “great pumpkin”. The great toenail, when ingrown, can cause a “foul-smelling lesion”, say the doctors. I think that means a puss-filled mess.
It's not hard to avoid ingrown toenails. First, don't tear off the corner of your toenail. Doh!
Trim your nails regularly, cutting them straight across and rounding the edges. A nail cut too short, or cut too round at the corners, is likely to grow into the skin at the corners of the toe, and soon you have an ingrown toenail. Sorry, I meant to say “onychocryptosis”.
Wear shoes that don't crowd your toes. Your toes have rights, you know, just like little toads in California.
Treating your Toe
You may be able to treat your ingrown toenail at home if it hasn't become infected. However, if you have diabetes or another condition affecting your circulation, proceed directly to the doctor.
Try gently lifting the nail from the flesh and placing a cotton ball or some waxed dental floss under it to push it up. (Men like to see other things pushed up, but we'll save that discussion for another day.) Soaking your toe beforehand will make this easier. Apply a topical antibiotic and wrap your toe with a bandage to hold the material in place. Soak your toe in water periodically, and keep it clean and dry otherwise.
You can try trimming the nail, not to remove the ingrown portion, but to achieve a clean, straight cut across the end of the nail, which may ease pressure. Again, soak your foot in warm water to soften the nail before you trim it. Just trim the end; don't play home surgeon.
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