How To Tell If An Ingrown Toenail Is Infected -- And How To Treat It

Posted on: 3 September 2018

Ingrown toenails can go on for a long time without causing issues. The major trouble with them is that at some point, the skin around the toenail may become infected. When this occurs, you generally need treatment to ensure the infection is done away with and does not spread. In this guide, you will learn how to tell if your ingrown toenail is infected -- and how your doctor will treat the toenail area if an infection does arise.

How to Tell if the Toenail Is Infected

Pain is often the first sign of an ingrown toenail infection, but since pain can occur in the absence of infection, you should also look out for the following signs.

Redness: The area around the toenail may become bright red in color. At first this redness may be isolated to around the nail, but soon it may spread to the entire toe. 

Throbbing: A toenail area that is infected will not only be painful, but the pain will have a throbbing quality to it. This throbbing is the result of the swollen tissues within the toe putting pressure on the nerve.

Pus: If the infection is near the surface or has been going on for a while, you may notice white or yellow pus coming from beneath the area where the toenail is stabbing into your toe tissue.

Fever: In the worst cases, your infection may come with a fever. As this may indicate that the infection has spread to the blood, you should head to the emergency room if this is the case.

Treating an Infected Toenail

As long as you do not have a fever, you can make an appointment with your podiatrist for treatment. Depending on the severity of the infection, he or she may do one or more of the following.

Drain the infection: The infected area may be lanced so that the pus can be drained and the pocket can be sterilized. Your toe will generally be numbed before this is done.

Topical antibiotics: Infections near the surface may be treated with a topical cream or gel, like Neosporin. 

Oral antibiotics: If there is fear of the infection spreading, your doctor will have you take antibiotics orally for 7 to 10 days.

Toenail removal: In serious cases, and if your doctor thinks reinfection is likely based on the state of your toenail, he or she may recommend that the toenail be removed.

Do not ignore a toenail that you suspect has caused an infection! Prompt ingrown toenail treatment is key to a successful recovery. 

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Hello, my name is Dylan. Welcome to my website about podiatry. When I was in a dancing group, I constantly injured my toes. I tried to correct my posture issues, but mechanical issues prevented the change. I decided to work with a podiatrist to correct these problems. I underwent a number of treatments and eventually decided to wear orthotics in my shoes. The orthotics helped support my feet and reduce pain when I was not dancing. On this site, I will talk about the various treatments provided by podiatrists. Please feel free to come by often to learn more about podiatry.

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