Updated: Jun 19
Ingrown toenails are one of the most painful conditions we see at My Family Podiatry. These little pieces of nail can lead to severe pain, infection and in extreme cases, even bone infections. I have had people limp into the clinic, unable to wear shoes and tell me that even the bed sheets resting on the toe are causing extreme pain.
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:
Trauma to the toenail
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 to a more significant issue. Once the ingrown nail becomes infected, the pain can be quite severe and often accompanied by:
Exudate (pus, blood or “weeping” 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 more 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 an 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.
Oral Antibiotics: When you present to the GP with an ingrown nail, they will often prescribe oral antibiotics. This helps to reduce the pain and redness however if the ingrown piece of nail is not removed, the pain is likely to return when you finish your antibiotics.
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
Using tape to pull the skin away from the edge of the nail can reduce the risk of the nail becoming ingrown. This is especially useful when trying to grow a nail back after a conservative ingrown nail treatment.
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 through the button below 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.