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  • Writer's pictureMy Family Podiatry

Ingrown Toenails

Updated: Dec 19, 2023

Ingrown toenails are one of the most painful conditions we see as podiatrists. These little pieces of nail can lead to severe pain, localised infection and sometimes even more severe infections. We have seen patients unable to walk properly, wear enclosed shoes or even have the bed sheets resting on their toes due to the extreme pain.

What Is An Ingrown Nail?

An ingrown nail occurs when the nail breaks through the nail sulci - the skin surrounding the nail. This can condition can arise for a number of reasons including:

  • Trauma: Accidental injury to the toe can alter the nail's growth pattern. This is especially common if the nail cracks, leading to a potential sharp edge that can cut into the skin.

  • Ill-Fitting Footwear: Shoes that are too tight can compress the toes, leading to ingrown toenails.

  • Incorrect Nail Cutting: Improper trimming of nails can encourage them to grow into the skin.

  • Nail Infections: Conditions like nail fungus can distort the nail, making it more prone to becoming ingrown.

  • Genetic Factors: Some people inherit nail shapes that are more susceptible to becoming ingrown.

Image of an adult toe showing an ingrown nail on one side of the big toe

How do I know if my nail is ingrown?

An ingrown toenail is typically quite easy to identify by the discomfort they cause. It may begin as a slight pain along the edge of the nail before progressing into a more significant issue. Once the ingrown nail becomes infected, the pain intensifies and is often accompanied by:

  • Erythema (Redness): The affected area often becomes red and inflamed.

  • Swelling: This is a common reaction to the irritation caused by the ingrown nail.

  • Severe Pain: The pain can range from mild to debilitating.

  • Exudate (Discharge): Pus or fluid discharge indicates infection.

  • Hypergranulation Tissue: In advanced cases, this type of tissue forms as a response to the injury. It is very vascular and may begin to bleed with even slight pressure as well as cause increased discomfort.

Ingrown toenail treatments

There are two main ways your podiatrist will treat your ingrown toenail:

Conservative Treatment: This approach involves gently extracting the piece of nail that has broken the skin and rounding off the edge of the nail. Local anaesthesia can be used if needed. Depending on the initial cause of the ingrown nail, recurrence is possible, especially if this treatment is repeatedly performed.

Surgical Treatment: If you are repeatedly suffering with ingrown toenails, we typically recommend this permanent solution. This minor surgical procedure, performed under local anaesthesia, removes the offending edge of the nail, effectively preventing the ingrown toenail from recurring. Post-procedure, most patients report only mild discomfort and can typically resume their regular activities the next day.

Occasionally oral antibiotics may be required and these can be prescribed by your GP. Your podiatrist will be able to recommend if this is necessary.

Preventing Ingrown Toenails

Prevention is always better than a cure! Some methods of preventing ingrown toenails include:

  • Proper Footwear: Ensure your shoes fit well without compressing the toes.

  • Nail Care: Trim nails straight across and gently round the corners with a file. Avoid picking at your nails.

  • Note: Contrary to popular belief, cutting a "V" in the nail does not prevent or treat ingrown nails.

When to Seek Professional Help

If you're experiencing persistent pain, signs of infection, or have recurrent ingrown toenails, it's time to consult with our experts at My Family Podiatry. Our comprehensive approach not only treats the symptoms but also addresses the root cause, ensuring you can return to your everyday activities without pain.

Contact us through the button below or call us at 07 3088 6116 to discuss how we can help you find relief from ingrown toenails.

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