Ingrown Toenails - OUCH!

Of all the things podiatrists do, caring for chronic, infected ingrown toenails has to be own of the most satisfying. Patients are often terrified to see us. Sometimes they've seen their family doctor who wasn't experienced in removing nails without much pain. Some primary docs are actually GREAT at this procedure -- we know, we've trained many during their residencies! Some patients have struggled for months or years performing their own "bathroom" surgery. They know how painful that is. Often they assume going to the podiatrist will be worse. It's not.

Let us tell you a little story. One of our doctors, years ago, saw an elderly lady who had suffered with ingrown toenails for decades. Not one to see the doctor, she finally relented when the toe got so infected she could no longer wear winter boots. Since sandals aren't an option in Colorado in the winter, she came in to the office. Our doctor numbed up her toe. It's not painless, but not as bad as you imagine. (Unless you're a man, 6'4". Then we'll make you lay down. The bigger they are ...). The doctor waited until the toe was completely numb. Then he skillfully popped the offending nail margin out, bandaged the toe and sent the patient home with antibiotics. Our then-young podiatrist saw the patient back a week later. He walked in the room and was greeted by the previously-sweet lady standing with one hand on her hip and the other wagging a finger at him.

"I AM SO ANGRY!" she declared.

Being newly in practice, our doctor gulped and felt his heart race. "Oh no! Why, what happened?" he exclaimed, wondering why she didn't call him if she had a problem.

His patient repeated herself. "I am so ANGRY ... I am so angry that I didn't do this YEARS ago!!" She winked, laughed and grabbed our doctor's hands in hers.

Our story's hero breathed a sigh of relief. Phew. After she was seated comfortably, he removed the patient's bandage and revealed a perfectly normal appearing toe. Since this had been a badly infected toe, and the problem had gone on for years, he had this wonderful patient return a few weeks later to have the side of the nail removed permanently. He did let her know that the procedure fails up to 10% of the time and has to be repeated, and he also discussed the other rare but possible complications. She returned, this time without the fear and anxiety that kept her from seeking relief for so very long.

You're smart. You know the moral of the story. Don't let fear keep you from seeking the care you know you need. Ingrown nails are one of the conditions in which you can limp into our office and walk out comfortable. Removing part or all of a nail sounds like torture, but it doesn't have to be. Living with the pain, well that's a torture you don't have to accept!

Author
Rocky Mountain Foot & Ankle Center

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