What is an ingrowing toe nail?
Ingrowing toe nails are a common condition affecting all age groups. Most commonly, the big toe nail is involved, but any nail can be affected. The side of the nail irritates the surrounding skin and may be extremely painful. In some cases, the nail actually pierces the flesh, causing more pain.
Ingrowing toe nails can often become infected. Signs of bacterial infection are increased pain, redness and swelling of the surrounding skin, and green or yellow pus. If not treated the infection may extend to affect the foot, leg or even the underlying bone. People with diabetes or circulatory problems are most at risk from serious complications such as these.
Causes of ingrowing toe nails
The most common cause of an ingrowing toe nails is excess nail curvature causing it to dig into the flesh. Nails that are fan shaped can also cause problems, and (as with excessively curved nails) are hereditary. Poor nail cutting technique resulting in a spike being left on the edge of the nail may cause an acute ingrowing toe nail.
Poorly fitting footwear is another contributing factor. Shoes which are too tight, high heels and pointed toed shoes can all increase pressure on the nails and cause irritation of the surrounding skin. People with sweaty feet, for example sporty people, are also more susceptible to ingrown toenails as softer skin is more likely to become irritated.
Other causes of ingrowing toe nails are trauma to the nail, fungal infection, and certain medications.
Treatment of ingrowing toe nails
The podiatrists at ACT Podiatry have extensive experience in treating ingrown toenails. We work with very young children through to the very elderly; with athletes, and with patients with coexisting complex medial conditions. Our management approach is therefore tailored to suit your individual needs.
Acute ingrowing toe nails usually respond well to a short course of treatment (usually a single treatment) designed to remove the irritating section of nail. If the area is very painful, a local anaesthetic may be used. Antibiotics may be prescribed in some cases, although often a mild infection will resolve following removal of the nail piece and appropriate aftercare.
Chronic cases, or cases which recur regularly, may benefit from surgery to permanently narrow the nail. Performed in our rooms under local anaesthetic, phenol is applied to the nail matrix (roots) to prevent regrowth. All our podiatrists are experienced in this procedure, which has excellent success rates and high patient satisfaction.
Alternatively, a Sharps procedure may be recommended. These procedures involve the surgical removal of the nail matrix, rather than chemical cautery. As Canberra’s only Podiatric Surgeon, Dr Clayton Clews performs these procedures at Barton Private Hospital. They are performed under a light general anaesthesia.
For people who have needle phobia, or are otherwise anxious about treatment, a couple of options are available. We may recommend a single dose sedative to calm your nerves prior to treatment. For severe phobias treatment can be performed at Barton Private Hospital under general anaesthesia.
If you think you have an ingrown toenail, the offending nail must be removed as soon as possible. If you are attempting to do this at home, you should take care to minimise infection risk by using clean nail clippers and finishing with an appropriate antiseptic. Daily salt water baths are also recommended until the wound has dried out. However, we would recommend seeking professional treatment to resolve the problem as quickly as possible. Left untreated, or if not treated appropriately, pain and infection will worsen as the nail continues to grow into the flesh.
foot and ankle conditions
- Hallux Valgus (Bunions – progressive dislocation of the big toe joint)
- Hallux Rigidus (Osteoarthritis of the big toe joint)
- Hammer/Claw Toes
- Plantar Forefoot Pain
- Heel Pain (including plantar fasciitis/plantar fasciopathy)
- Bumps and Lumps (bony and soft tissue)
- Arthritis (forefoot, midfoot, rearfoot and ankle)
- Complex foot and ankle complaints (patients with multiple concerns)
- Ingrown Toenail Surgery
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