To my surprise, it turns out I had an ingrown toenail. Now and then, when I go a little too long between cutting my toenails, the corner pokes at the skin when I walk and makes it sore. I didn't think that was an ingrown toenail -- based on the reading I did, an ingrown nail seemed to be when the nail actually grows into the skin. That wasn't happening with me.
So, as too often happens, I went a little too long without cutting my toenails. My bad. So as usual the corner poked at the skin. Unlike usual, it started to swell. It turned red. It started hurting. There was a bit of a discharge. (All of this happened in under 48 hours, so I think I didn't wait too long to get it seen to.)
This morning I skipped swimming and went to urgent care. (I love urgent care -- it's one step below going to the ER, but for times when you don't want to wait days to see your regular doctor.) The doctor only had to take a glance to see it was ingrown and infected.
The prep for the procedure was by far the worst part. Soaking it for 15 minutes (not so bad), then a lot of shots (novacane) into the toe. And by a lot, I mean six or eight shots (I lost count -- I do not recommend getting so many shots that you lose count of them!). They were way, way more painful than any other shot I ever got. I swear to god, it felt like the needle hit bone. (Oh, and if you're not up on your tetanus shot, you'll get one of those, too.)
I'm not exactly sure what happened next. I couldn't see, and I did not want to see. I believe she cut my whole toenail off. (She held it up for me to see, but before I could get a good look, I saw it was blood red and quickly turned my head away.) They wrapped it up in a bandage, which has to be on for 24 hours. I'm not looking forward to unwrapping it tomorrow. I don't want to see what it looks like, and with all or most of the nail gone, I don't like the idea of it not having the protection of two inches thick bandage around it.
They gave me a mighty spiffy special boot to wear. It's like a flip flop with a really thick sole, with velcro straps to hold it on. Very comfortable (if a lot bigger than my normal shoe). Also a prescription for oral antibiotics (three times a day -- two or one is easy to remember, three is much harder) and a cream to use on it.
I can't go swimming tomorrow. Next weekend would have been okay, but I'll be on vacation then.
I'm surprised the pain hasn't been bad at all. She said the numbness from the shots would be gone in 30 minutes, but two hours later and I was feeling fine. Sometime after that I was feeling mild pain with an occasional very sharp spike, so I took some ibuprofen, which did the trick. She gave me a prescription for vicodin as well, but I haven't touched those and don't think I'll need to. (Which is good, they mess my head up and do nothing for pain. I had them for my kidney stone as well.)
So, moral of the story: Even if toenails seem like a more useless part of you, it's best not to ignore them. Keep them trimmed down and wear loose-fitting shoes.
Edit, next morning: I still have ten toenails, yay! She just cut off some from either side of it, so it's a skinnier nail now. I guess when someone holds up your bloody detached toenail, it tends to look bigger than it is!