Updated: Mar 28, 2021
Ingrown toenails are amongst 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. I have had patients report they were unable to walk properly, wear enclosed shoes or even have the bed sheets resting on their toes due to the amount of pain it causes.
What is an ingrown nail?
An ingrown nail occurs when the nail breaks through the nail sulci - the skin which surrounds the nail. This can occur for any number of reasons including:
Ill fitting footwear
Incorrect cutting of the nail
Infections within the nail
Nail shape inherited from your parents
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 is typically quite severe and often accompanied by:
Exudate (pus or other liquid from the toe)
And if the ingrown becomes worse
Hypergranulation tissue. This is the bodies response to the piece of nail breaking through the skin. It is a strange type of skin which bleeds very easily and can be quite painful.
Ingrown toenail treatments
There are two main ways your podiatrist will treat your ingrown toenail:
Conservative Treatment: This involves gently removing the piece of nail which has broken the skin and rounding off the edge of the nail. A local anaesthetic can be used if required. Depending on the initial cause of the ingrown nail, it can sometimes reoccur. The likelihood of reoccurrence increases with the number of times this treatment is performed.
Surgical Treatment: This is a permanent solution to the ingrown toenail and the pathway I typically recommend if you are regularly suffering from ingrown toenails. This minor surgery is performed with a local anaesthetic and removes a small edge of the nail - preventing the ingrown toenail from returning. Typically nothing more than mild discomfort is reported with patients back on their feet at school or work 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:
Ensuring footwear fits appropriately and does not squash the toes
Avoiding picking at your nails. Cut them straight across and round the corners with a file
Unfortunately there is no evidence to suggest cutting a “V” in the nail will help treat or prevent ingrown nails.
If you or someone you know suffers from ingrown toenails, please contact us at My Family Podiatry either through the Book Now link above or call us on 07 3088 6116 for a quick chat about how we may be able to get you back on your feet without pain.