A Modern Family Ingrown Nail

On one of the best TV shows today, ABC’s Modern Family, Cam Tucker (Eric Stonestreet) stepped into the leading role in the musical cats because the lead had an infected toenail and would be out for “weeks”.

Although it was terribly funny-my wife asked if that was true. I told her that an infected toenail would not necessitate multiple weeks off of work-even for a prancing feline on stage.

The #1 cause of toenail infections (in humans at least-I’m not sure about cats as their claws retract!) is a complication of an ingrown toenail. The cells that produce finger and toenails reside at the base of the nail. Either congenitally (shape) or traumatically (darn bed post in the middle of the night), these cells dysfunction and cause the outer edges of the nail to curve inward. Progressively, these nails become imbedded in the skin along the edge of the nail causing painful ingrown toenails. This can be incredibly painful-especially during exercise (or frolicking around in whiskers).

The infection is often times introduced by the amateur surgeon (i.e. the patient themselves) sticking nail nippers or other sharp objects under the nail to dislodge it from the skin. Another cause of infection is from the body’s response to the irritating nail. Any noxious stimuli cause the body to send an inflammatory response (a bunch of blood and fluid) to the site. This increase in fluid, pressure and tissue congestion complicates the body’s ability to fight what would otherwise be considered an easy infection to destroy.

What ‘ere the cause-the infection presents and causes a yellowish discharge from the sides and tip of the nail. Increased warmth, swelling and even a nasty smell can follow. The infection often times requires a 10-14 day antibiotic (Augmentin for cat bites).

Surgical intervention for infected ingrown toenails is a topic of debate. Some prefer to not cause damage to an area of infection as it may seed the infection deeper, including bone. Others advocate removing the noxious ingrown nail to reduce irritation to the area and improve the body’s chances against the bacteria (pasteurella multocida for cat bites, but staph infection for over weight men dressed in a cat suit).

In cases of chronic ingrown toenails, it is usually recommended to have the nail removed and a chemical applied the nail cells to prevent growing again. This is however not indicated in the presence of infection.

To avoid ingrown and thus infected toenails:

1. Keep your feet and shoes clean and dry.

2. Trim toenails straight across, and not too short (ignore if you have retractable claws).

3. Do not cut your toenails too short.

4. Do not lick toenails or use them on nice furniture!

5. Always seek medical treatment before attempting self-surgery in your bathroom!

So when the true lead went down and it was Cam’s moment on stage-a realistic expectation is only for about 2-3 days for an infected toenail.

Any further questions regarding ingrown nails or any foot or ankle problem contact Dr. Jeffrey N. Bowman of Houston Foot Specialists at (713) 467-8886 or online at www.houstonfootspecialists.com where you will find more information and videos about this topic.

Category: Nail Problems

Tags: Foot Problems, Foot Surgery, Infected Toenail, Ingrown Toenails, Toe Pain, Toe Surgery