If your ingrown toe nail is serious enough to require surgical intervention, you're probably no stranger to pain in your toe. However, recovering from surgery to correct the offending toenail can be just as painful if you push your injured foot too soon and too hard, so it's important to keep a few things in mind while you recover to avoid damaging your delicate toe or even causing the ingrowing toenail to relapse.
Recovering from a wedge resection
Wedge resectioning is the simplest surgical procedure for correcting an ingrowing toenail and involves surgical removal of the edges of the toenail that are cutting into the surrounding skin along with any shards of toenail that have become embedded in the skin. If the ingrowing toenail is infected, the pus will be surgically drained.
The damage left behind after a wedge resection is generally minor, and healing should be complete within a matter of weeks. However, the toe is still left vulnerable to infection and damage during the healing period, and your podiatrist may recommend one or more of the following treatments to speed recovery:
- Rest - Most patients who undergo a wedge resection are able to walk out of the surgery under their own power and may even feel capable of driving. However, resting the toe as much as possible is still recommended to promote healing.
- Antibiotics - These are often administered even when no sign of infection is present as a precaution against potential infection during the healing period. You may be provided with oral antibiotics or a topical gel to be applied directly to the toe.
- Pain relief - This can take the form of ice packs or, in more painful cases, a course of painkilling medication. Non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) such as ibuprofen are usually prescribed, as they help combat any post-surgery inflammation.
Recovering from full toenail avulsion
If an ingrowing toenail recurs after a wedge resection, your podiatrist may recommend a full avulsion, which involves complete removal of the toenail. This is actually a more simple procedure than wedge resection, and the procedure can take less than thirty minutes from start to finish -- however, the damage caused by full avulsion is naturally more extensive, and healing will take a little longer than it does for wedge resections.
Promoting healing of a newly de-nailed toe is much the same as promoting healing after a wedge resection, but there are a couple more things to bear in mind:
- Protecting your toe skin - While a toe without a toenail is no more vulnerable than an ordinary toe, the skin that was previously protected by the nail will be tender and fragile for several weeks after surgery. Keeping the toe wrapped in sterile dressings for as long as your podiatrist recommends is generally enough to protect this skin, but you should still avoid aggravating it with excessive exercise or accidental injury wherever possible.
- Phenol - In most cases, the toenail removed during a full avulsion will grow back normally, but if the toenail that grows back is abnormally thick or curved, it can quickly cause a relapse of the ingrowing nail. In these cases, your podiatrist may recommend phenol, a chemical which is applied to the nail bed and results in complete destruction of the nail matrix. This results in permanent removal of the affected toenail, and while this is perfectly safe, your toe will need to be inspected regularly by your podiatrist to ensure that nail matrix destruction is total and that no errant shards of toenail grow back.