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If You Have Diabetes, Ingrown Toenails Are Serious Business

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Before we begin, let’s clear one thing up:

Ingrown toenails are always serious business, no matter who you are. They are painful, they are frustrating, and they can (and, given enough time, will) make you miserable. So, treatment is always going to be recommended, in just about any circumstance.

However:

If you also have diabetes—or really any condition that prevents your feet and toes from getting optimal circulation—your ingrown toenail may lead to much more serious complications, much more quickly.

Not only should you not delay treatment, but in fact you should not even attempt to handle it yourself. Instead, you should make an appointment with us right away. Anything else is not worth the risk.

Let’s explore a little bit further to find out why, and what you can do to lower your risk.

Poor Nerve Health Means Less Opportunity to Catch a Problem Early

Diabetes is strongly linked to peripheral neuropathy, which is a condition that can reduce the sensitivity of the sensory nerves in your legs and feet. Basically, when your blood sugar levels are routinely elevated, that sugar acts as a sort of toxin, slowly damaging nerves over time.

What does this mean for ingrown toenails?

It means that, unless you are carefully inspecting your feet every day, you may not even realize you have an ingrown toenail in the first place—at least not until it becomes extremely red and swollen. You might not feel the pain at all or be more likely to simply shrug it off. But that doesn’t mean the danger isn’t there.

If you do have diabetes, don’t forget about your toenails when you’re making your daily foot checks. Pay special attention to the nail borders and look for any signs of redness, swelling, or puffiness.

Low Circulation Means Increased Infection Risk—and Worse

Late detection is bad enough. But it’s far from the only problem. That’s because poor circulation to the toes is another common side effect of diabetes.

Again, what does that mean for ingrown toenails?

It means that your immune system—the white blood cells sent to fight off germs and infections that get inside your body—can’t mount as strong of a defense as they otherwise would. Your blood just can’t get enough “soldiers” to fight off the invading bacteria.

This would be true even if you caught the ingrown toenail immediately. So, you can just imagine the problems you might run into if it takes you several days—or longer—to even notice that an ingrown toenail has created an opening for germs in your skin!

Don’t Bother with Home Treatments

Now, if you didn’t have diabetes, and you caught your ingrown toenails very early, we might give you the go-ahead for some home care options first. Foot soaks, antibiotic creams, elevation, and loose-fitting footwear can sometimes be effective at managing pain and reversing the condition for people who are not already at high risk.

Unfortunately, we really can’t in good conscience recommend any of these home remedies to people with diabetes. Their effectiveness is already somewhat hit-or-miss in non-diabetic patients; the risk if you do have the condition is just way too high.

What kind of risk are we talking about?

Well, a toe that gets infected can be a big problem. If you don’t find a way to reverse and contain that infection fast, it could continue to spread and infect deeper and deeper layers of tissue—even bone.

Although rare, it isn’t unheard of that an infection from a simple ingrown toenail could ultimately force us to amputate that toe, or even part of a foot, to stop the condition from spreading.

So, the right choice is clear—don’t mess around! Get help from us as soon as you can.

Effective, Convenient Treatment for Ingrown Toenails

The great news here is that treating ingrown toenails is a relatively simple matter for an experienced podiatrist—even when the patient has diabetes.

Under a local anesthetic (so you don’t feel any pain), we can quickly and gently cut out and remove the ingrown nail border. This can be performed right from our office, in a safe and sterile environment.

We’ll take extra care to ensure that your wound is properly dressed and protected to reduce your risk of developing an infection. (Of course, if there is already an infection, we’ll make sure treating it is the highest priority.)

Even better, we can also remove a portion of the nail matrix responsible for growing new nail tissue right along the ingrown edge. If you have a problem with recurring ingrown toenails, this second procedure is a no-brainer. It cuts your risk of recurrence down to almost zero—extremely welcome news to anyone with diabetes.

And before you even ask—no, you won’t be laid up for weeks afterward. You might have to exercise a little caution showering for a few days to a few weeks, but you should be back to your regular activities within a day.

So, by now, hopefully, you’re convinced. But to summarize, if you have diabetes:

  • Your chances of catching an ingrown toenail early go down.
  • Your chances of that ingrown toenail developing a dangerous infection go way up, especially if you waste time trying home remedies.
  • A quick appointment with our team can make the problem go away—probably for good.

When you put it that way, the choice is pretty clear—wouldn’t you say?

To schedule an appointment with any of our specialists in either Gilbert or Chandler, please give us a call at (480) 963-9000.

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