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How to Avoid Ingrown Toenail Surgery

Updated on April 20, 2017
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I know from personal experience how painful ingrown toenails can be. I've avoided toenail removal surgery with these techniques.

Many people who have ingrown toenails, including me, struggle with the same dilemma.

They don't like the pain and discomfort of their ailment, but they also feel they cannot face the pain and discomfort of having some or all of their toenails removed.

The purpose of this article is to show them that, in some instances, there may be a better way to deal with this health issue, just as I have done.

An early ingrown toenail that probably will never need surgery if properly treated.
An early ingrown toenail that probably will never need surgery if properly treated. | Source

Ingrown Toenails Are Sneaky

When a toenail first starts to become ingrown, it creates only a very subtle discomfort.

Most people think that all they have to do is clip the edge of the toenail off, and the problem will end. That was my original thinking.

The truth is that once you have a good start on an ingrown toenail, it is not going to get better. In fact, it will get so bad that the pain will disable you and even keep you from being able to walk.

This is a terrible situation for anybody to be in, and unless people seek professional help from a compassionate, understanding, and skilled podiatrist, the future can be grim, indeed.

Ignore Internet Advice

Since people fear doctors and the costs they incur, many turn to the internet for help.

I must tell you that some of the videos I have seen there have been so horribly wrong that they really should be banned because of the advice they provide.

There was one where a father with filthy hands took an even filthier huge knife and proceeded to cut a "V" in the top of his son's ingrown toenail. He swore that this worked because as the nail grew back together, it would pull the sides towards the center and "pop" the ingrown portion of the nail back to its original position.

This sounds like it might work, but the problem is that long before that nail "might" grow back, a nice, pus-filled infection would set in and result in problems that could go far beyond having just an ingrown toe nail!

Furthermore, a podiatrist told me that cutting a V in the top of the toenail simply doesn't work!

There are other people who post dangerous advice like this on the internet as well, but if you need help with an ingrown toe nail, you would be better off to see a doctor, and do it long before your foot becomes infected.

Don't let any doctor push you into surgery.  Always get a second opinion.
Don't let any doctor push you into surgery. Always get a second opinion. | Source

Infections Can Kill

Foot problems can be dangerous, but when you combine them with infections, they can be deadly. The following true story clearly makes this point, and it is one you should keep in mind the next time you want to "treat" your own ingrown toenail.

It may seem to be a bit "over the top," but it actually did happen. Even though it doesn't directly relate to having an ingrown toenail, it does show you show how serious an infection in the foot can be, which is why I'm including it here.

I have watched videos where people squeeze pus out of their infected toenails thinking that this will fix their problem, but in many cases, it won't. Instead an infection can move into your system and kill you, which is exactly what happened to a friend of mine.

Here is his story: My friend lived on a boat and liked to walk barefoot. He had done this for many years without consequence. One day he was walking on the pier beside his boat when a small sliver of wood got stuck in the bottom of his foot. He pulled it out, cleaned his foot up, and went on about his business, barefoot as usual.

After awhile, he noticed that the area where the splinter had been did not look right and was starting to hurt. He did all of the usual things such as soaking his foot in Epsom Salts, washing it thoroughly, putting antibiotic lotion on it and bandaging it, but the problem continued to worsen.

Finally he saw a doctor. It seemed he had picked up one of "those" infections that are hard to get rid of. The doctor sent him directly to the hospital, where he remained for several months. The doctors tried everything they knew to stop the infection, including amputation. After 4 amputations, 2 1/2 months in the intensive care unit and more than two million dollars in medical bills, my friend told the doctors to stop trying. He could not stand the pain and misery any longer, and he finally passed away.

I felt terrible when I heard the news, and I couldn't believe that a splinter in the foot could cause this much grief, but I know that an infection is an infection, and those that appear due to improperly treated ingrown toenails are no different.

Nobody can know for sure what would have happened if my friend had gone immediately for medical care, but my best guess is that he might be alive today if he had done that.

Why I told this sad tale to you, my readers, is that it pays to get medical treatment early for any kind of foot problem. Furthermore, since ingrown toenails can become easily infected, this is even more cause to seek care early.

Do not try to treat them yourself without the guidance of a doctor, especially if what you are trying to do is based on something you saw on the internet!

Soaking and washing feet regularly keeps them healthy and infection free.
Soaking and washing feet regularly keeps them healthy and infection free. | Source

Surgery Is Not Always Necessary

Many people assume that walking through the doors of a podiatrist's office automatically means that they will have to suffer the pain of having their ingrown toe nails partially or totally removed.

The truth is that unless the nails have become badly infected, this may not be necessary.

If you keep your feet scrupulously clean, you may never get an infection. Even if you do, sometimes a good dose of antibiotics can get rid of it. However, this will only work if you seek care immediately upon seeing any signs of infection such as redness, unusual pain and swelling.

Many people avoid toe nail surgery by keeping their feet clean and seeing the doctor every six weeks so that he can cut and file the offending nails back so that they do not induce pain.

Conversely, once every week or so people can do as I have been advised to do, which is:

  1. Soak your feet in a mixture of one to four vinegar water.
  2. Gently use a sterilized orange stick to lift the nail and file it down with an emory board.
  3. Put antibiotic ointment on it.
  4. Cover with a bandage.

This advice was given to me from my own podiatrist who I went to see after my former doctor had gotten pushy about giving me toenail removal surgery.

The Good Doctor's Advice Saved Me!

That was more than a year ago, and so far, his advice has worked well for me.

I am careful to follow his directions, and as a result have no pain. However, I will add that I:

  • Wear open-toed or wide shoes all the time
  • Wear socks that fit loosely around my toe area
  • Never abuse my feet

I will admit that the nails on my two big toes aren't exactly beautiful, but I can live with that much more easily than facing a sharp needle being stuck into the base of my big toe!

The bottom line is that if you have ingrown toe nails, get to a doctor. Tell him what I just told you to see whether this method will work for you as well as it has worked for me. Hopefully it will, and if it does, you will be able to avoid surgery forever as long as you do as I have done.

Good luck!

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© 2015 Sondra Rochelle

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    Sondra Rochelle 4 months ago from USA

    If your toe is hurting, you've got a problem but you won't know what it is until you see a doctor. It could be something other than an ingrown toenail but at least that way you'll know what you're dealing with. Sometimes they can just trim the nail back and that will relieve your pain. Good luck.

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    AP 4 months ago

    I have not seen a doctor yet and mine is not good nor bad but it hurts.