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Ingrown Toenails

Ingrown Toenails

Ingrown Toenail Surgery and Ingrown toenail treatment

“My ingrown toenail is so painful that I can’t touch it.  Even when my bed sheet touches it, I am in complete agony."

What is an ingrown toenail?

An ingrown toenail is where a piece of nail pierces the flesh of the toe. It can feel as if you have a splinter, be extremely painful and inflamed or infected. In more severe cases, it can cause pus and bleeding. Ingrown toenails most commonly affect the big toenail but can affect the other toes too. A nail that is curling (involuted) into the flesh, but isn’t piercing the skin, isn’t an ingrown toenail, but can also feel very painful, as well as appear red and inflamed.

Who gets it?

Active, sporty people are particularly prone, because they sweat more. Younger people are more likely to get it (as they pick their nails more, compared to older people who may not be able to reach their toes!).

How do I know I have it?

The most common symptom is pain followed by inflammation in the surrounding nail area.

However, not everyone identifies an ingrown toenail correctly. Sometimes they have a curly nail which has a lot of debris (dirt or fluff) underneath it, or a corn or callus down the side of the nail, which can be nearly as painful. However, if it is a corn, the pain tends to be throbbing as opposed to the sharp pain you get with an ingrown toenail. If this is the case, your Podiatrist will remove the debris, and if necessary, thin the nail.

Is it serious?

Not usually, unless you have an existing condition such as Diabetes, poor circulation or a reduced immune system. However, if left untreated, infection can develop in the rest of the toe and foot, and in very rare cases could get into the blood stream. The quicker you deal with it, the less painful the treatment will be.

What are the treatment options?

Before you are seen by a Podiatrist, you can relieve the discomfort by bathing your foot in a salty foot bath, which helps to prevent infection and reduces inflammation. Then apply a clean sterile dressing, especially if you have any discharge, and rest your foot as much as possible.

How a Podiatrist will treat you will depend largely on the severity of your condition:

  • For the most basic painful and irritable ingrown toenail, the offending spike of nail will be removed and covered with an antiseptic dressing.
  • For toes too painful to touch, a local anaesthetic can be injected before removing the offending portion of nail (nail surgery).
  • For involuted nails, part of the nail that is curling into the flesh is removed and then the edges of the nail are filed to a smooth surface (nail surgery).
  • The Podiatrist will advise you if you need to take any antibiotics. Often with an ingrown toenail the toe may appear as if it is infected, but it is just inflamed from the nail piercing the skin. Once the offending nail has been removed the inflammation often resolves itself.
  • For those particularly prone to ingrown toenails on a regular basis – nail surgery may be required.

Are you suffering from toenail or foot problems?

See a specialist at Podiatry Station