An ingrown toenail develops when the edge of your toenail grows into the skin next to it. Causing symptoms like redness, swelling, and tenderness, it’s a common foot problem.
Anyone can get an ingrown nail, and about 20% of people who go to the doctor for foot problems end up having an ingrown toenail. They’re fairly simple to diagnose and treat — but ingrown nails are particularly risky for people with diabetes.
That’s because untreated ingrown nails can lead to serious complications, including infections and even amputation. As diabetic foot care specialists, Lisa Burson, DPM, Joe Aoun, DPM, and our team at The Foot & Ankle Specialists can help.
If you think you have an ingrown nail, it’s important to take action. In this article, we’ll discuss the risks of ingrown toenails when you have diabetes, as well as some steps you can take to prevent and treat them.
How diabetes affects your feet
Having diabetes increases your risk of certain health complications, including diabetic neuropathy. Diabetic neuropathy is a type of nerve damage that primarily affects feet, legs, hands, and arms.
Neuropathy can cause loss of feeling in your feet, along with symptoms like tingling, burning, and pain. Diabetes also limits blood circulation to your feet, which slows your body’s healing response.
Ingrown toenails can develop if you wear ill-fitting shoes, cut your toenails incorrectly, or have a genetic predisposition to ingrown nails. Pressure from shoes forces the nail edge into the skin next to it, and the nail begins growing into the flesh.
If you have diabetes, loss of sensation makes it difficult to feel discomfort or pain. As a result, people with diabetes may not realize that they have a foot injury, ingrown toenail, or other issue until it has progressed significantly.
Ingrown nails and other foot problems can easily get infected, and diabetes can make the infection worsen quickly. So what does that mean for you?
If you have diabetes, it is especially important to take good care of your feet and regularly check for signs of ingrown toenails. If you get an ingrown toenail, take it seriously, and go to the doctor right away.
The risks of an ingrown nail when you have diabetes
Any toenail can get ingrown, but it’s most common on big toes. Some of the symptoms of ingrown toenails include redness, swelling, and tenderness around the nail. If you notice any of these symptoms, make a podiatrist appointment as soon as possible.
If left untreated, ingrown toenails can lead to serious complications. These complications include infection, foot ulcers, and even amputation.
When the toenail grows into the skin, it creates a small opening in your skin that allows bacteria to enter. Infections in the feet can be particularly dangerous when you have diabetes because your body's ability to fight off infections is limited.
A small infection can quickly turn into a foot ulcer or slow-healing wound. Without advanced wound care, the infection may get so severe that amputation may be necessary.
Preventing and treating ingrown nails
When you have diabetes, proactive foot care is the best way to protect your feet and your overall health. Make a habit of examining your feet for ingrown nails and other signs of injury regularly, and get a professional diabetic foot exam at least once a year.
Dr. Burson and Dr. Aoun offer comprehensive diabetes foot care, which includes steps to prevent and treat ingrown nails. We show you how to trim your toenails properly, and we help you find properly fitting shoes to reduce your risk of injury.
If you have an existing ingrown nail, we lift the nail from your skin and prescribe medication to treat the infection. Sometimes, we recommend removing part or all of your nail to treat recurring or severe ingrown nails.
Do you have an ingrown toenail? Don’t let it go untreated. Get the care you need at The Foot & Ankle Specialists in Bay City, Caro, and Lapeer, Michigan. Call the office nearest you, or request an appointment online today.