What Are Ingrown Toenails?
Ingrown nails, the most common nail impairment, are nails whose corners or sides dig painfully into the soft tissue of nail grooves, often leading to irritation, redness, and swelling. Usually, toenails grow straight out. Sometimes, however, one or both corners or sides curve and grow into the flesh. The big toe is the most common location for this condition, but other toes can also become affected.
Ingrown toenails may be caused by the following:
- Improperly trimmed nails (See Figure 1)
- Shoe pressure; crowding of toes
- Repeated trauma to the feet from normal activities
Figure 1: How to cut toenails
The following symptoms may be present with ingrown toenails:
- Redness and swelling
- Prominent skin tissue (proud flesh)
If you suspect an infection due to an ingrown toenail, immerse the foot in a warm saltwater soak, or a basin of soapy water, then apply an antiseptic and bandage the area.
People with diabetes, peripheral vascular disease, or other circulatory disorders must avoid any form of self-treatment and seek treatment from one of podiatrists as soon as possible.
Other “do-it-yourself” treatments, including any attempt to remove any part of an infected nail or the use of over-the-counter medications, should be avoided. Nail problems should be evaluated and treated by one of our podiatrists, who can diagnose the ailment, treatment the condition and then prescribe medication or another appropriate treatment.
When to see one of our podiatrists:
You should see one of our podiatrists immediately if any drainage or excessive redness is present around the toenail. Also, if a short trial of home treatment has not resulted in improvement of your condition.
Our Podiatrists can diagnose and treat an ingrown toenail by removing the ingrown portion of the nail and may prescribe a topical or oral medication to treat the infection. The earlier you see us then the easier it is for us to treat it with minimal pain. Should you leave it too long and it becomes too painful or there is an overgrowth of skin (hypergranulation tissue) we may need to use local anaesthetic to numb your toe prior to removing the nail spicule (offending nail spike).
If your ingrown nails become a chronic problem, our podiatrists or attending podiatric surgeon can perform a simple nail surgery procedure to permanently remove a portion of your nail which prevents nail regrowth. The corner of the nail that has become ingrown, along with the nail matrix (or root) of that piece of nail, are removed by use of a chemical (such as phenol), laser, or other methods. Please be assured that if you are at all anxious with the procedure or have a needle phobia we can administer Penthrox inhaler (known as ‘happy gas’). Dr Reza Naraghi being a podiatric surgeon can also issue oral sedation medication to help with local anaesthetic injections.
Please click her for more information regarding ingrown toenail surgery.
If you suffer from diabetes or poor circulation, you should seek immediate treatment at the first signs of an ingrown toenail, as it can lead to more severe complications.
- Trim toenails properly: cut them straight across, not longer than the tip of the toes. Do not dig into corners and only gently round off corners with a nail file. Use toenail clippers.
- Avoid shoes with pointy or narrow toe boxes.
- Never rip or tear edges of nails.