Why Antibiotics Are Not the Right Choice for Ingrown Toenail Issues

If there’s one thing we know about ingrown toenails, it’s that they can be incredibly painful – like a tiny knife stabbing you in the toe.

Ingrown toenails are actually one of the most common foot issues that we see as podiatrists. It’s not unusual to see a patient who has been suffering for weeks despite having finished a course of antibiotics, leaving the toe looking red, swollen, and almost as if the skin is flaking.

For many people, taking antibiotics for ingrown toenail issues seems like the logical choice – it’s an infection, after all – but there are many reasons why a podiatrist should be your first point of call instead. 

With more than 60 years of collective clinical podiatry experience, the team at Foot Health Clinic is committed to offering comprehensive treatment for all foot and ankle conditions – including ingrown toenails. Our services are designed to get to the root of your problem, ensuring we treat the underlying cause as well as address the acute symptoms. 

What is an Ingrown Toenail?  

This is when part of the toenail (down the sides) has pierced into the surrounding skin and continued growing into it. The longer the nail is left, the deeper it will be able to penetrate as it naturally continues to grow. Just like with a splinter, when you walk or put closed-toe shoes on, the pressure on the affected area is likely to cause pain.

In an attempt to heal the area, your toe swells, which brings with it redness and tenderness. This reaction is similar to that of a bacterial infection in an open wound, so we can see why antibiotics are the first thought for many people. The difference here, however, is that the issues aren’t being caused by a bacterial infection – they’re caused by a splinter-like section of nail embedded in the skin. Until that nail is removed, no amount of antibiotics is going to do you any good. 

Do Ingrown Toenails Not Become Infected Then? 

There is always a chance that an ingrown toenail can become infected – as with any open wound, the nail piercing into your skin makes your toe vulnerable to infection. It’s actually more at risk for becoming infected due to the toe being so close to the ground where it can be exposed to dirt.

In most cases, once the affected portion of nail has been removed, the toe will be able to heal, and the infection clear on its own. In more severe cases, however, a topical antiseptic (like Betadine) or a course of antibiotics may be warranted – but this is done in conjunction with removing the nail splinter from the toe.

What is the Best Treatment for an Ingrown Toenail?   

Podiatrists offer several treatment options that effectively and safely remove the toenail splinter from the skin, relieving the pressure on your toe and allowing it to return to normal.

  • Removal of the Nail Splinter
    If this is your first ingrown toenail, it’s relatively mild, or the cause is something that is unlikely to occur again, your podiatrist may offer to simply remove the affected nail edge. This can usually be completed in a few minutes and is not typically painful (although your toe can be numbed with a local anaesthetic if you desire).

  • Nail Bracing
    Another non-surgical option, this treatment involves an adhesive wire being placed across the toenail with one side gently hooked underneath the nail rim. It’s designed to promote natural, flatter growth of the nail. Nail bracing Brisbane offers a number of benefits – it’s painless, hypoallergenic, and the application is very simple.

  • Partial Nail Avulsion (PNA)
    If you’ve had recurring ingrown toenails, it’s quite severe, there are other complications (such as skin overgrowth), or the cause is something that is likely to reoccur, a PNA procedure may be recommended. A small section of toenail will be removed under local anaesthetic and a chemical will be applied to the nail-growing cells at the base of the nail to make this section unlikely to grow back.

  • Total Nail Avulsion (TNA)
    If your ingrown toenail is complicated by other issues (such as notable damage to the nail itself), there is also the possibility of a TNA procedure being performed. This is when the entire toenail is removed. After toenail removal, you can either allow the nail to regrow, hoping that healthy nail will take its place, or you can opt for the chemical to be applied to stop the nail from regrowing at all.

Nip Ingrown Toenails in the Bud with Foot Health Clinic 

The next time you experience an ingrown toenail, don’t reach for the antibiotics – instead, give the team at Foot Health Clinic a call and see one of our expert podiatrists for a solution that will get to the root cause of your problem. Our focus is on treating the cause of the ingrown toenail, as well as doing everything in our power to prevent this painful issue from reoccurring in the future.

Plus, if there is an infection present and antibiotics are needed, we’ll be able to write you a script, too. 



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