Many people suffer from ingrown toenails – nails that start growing into the tissue surrounding the nail. Some ingrown nails are just a minor annoyance and only hurt when you press on them. Others become a major issue, growing well under the skin and leading to infection. While a minor ingrown nail does not require urgent treatment, you should take very special care of an infected ingrown nail. Read on to learn how to tell if your ingrown nail is infected, and what to do if you think it is.
Signs of Infection
A small amount of redness in the tissue surrounding your toenail does not usually indicate an infection. However, if your entire toe is red and swollen, the nail is likely infected. Often, the swelling makes your toe feel like it is throbbing. The other major sign of infection is pus, which you may see draining from under the nail or from the tissues surrounding the nail. Rarely, a pocket of pus may accumulate under the nail, causing intense pain, especially when you press on it. It appears like a yellow and red spot under the nail.
Treating an Infection at Home
If your pain is at a tolerable level and there does not appear to be a pus pocket under the nail, you can attempt to treat the infection at home. Begin by soaking your foot in an Epsom salt bath. This helps draw out the infection and relieve swelling. Make a sterile Epsom salt bath by bringing a pot of water to a boil on the stove. Pour the water into a large tub, and add about ½ cup of Epsom salt. Soak your foot for about 20 minutes, and repeat this step daily until the signs of infection have disappeared.
When you remove your foot from the bath, dry it off, and then apply an antibiotic cream to the affected area. Wear shoes that allow your toe to breathe; sandals work well as they do not press on your toenail.
Seeking Treatment From a Podiatrist
If the signs of infection do not clear up within a couple of days, or if your toe is so painful that you can barely walk on it, your best bet is to call a physician or a podiatrist. He or she can prescribe antibiotics to help your body fight off the infection more efficiently, and can also trim your nail in a way that helps keep the ingrown nail from becoming worse.
Even if you are able to clear up the infection on your own at home, it's a good idea to make an appointment with a podiatrist to discuss your ingrown nails. Many times, they will keep getting re-infected unless you have them treated professionally. Contact a center like Center for Foot Care for more information.