The idea of an ingrowing toenail is often the material of comedians but like most medical conditions, if you have it, it is no laughing matter. Ingrowing toenails are a common foot problem causing pain and discomfort that we see and treat at the Chiropody surgery.
What is an ingrowing toenail?
The condition is caused when the edge of the nail, usually on the big toenail, presses into the flesh on the side of the toe causing pain and inflammation. Under certain conditions, the nail itself can pierce the flesh itself causing bleeding, pain and sometimes infection. Ingrowing toenails mostly affect teenagers and adults.
What causes ingrowing toenails?
Some toenails, by virtue of their natural shape, may have a tendency to grow in a particular way causing them to press onto the edge of the toe and cause pain. Shoes which are too tight and squash the nail can make the problem worse. For most people however, ingrowing toenails are caused by the nail being cut back to short, leaving sharp or jagged edges which can irritate or damage the toe as it grows forwards.
An ingrowing Toenail
What can I do if I have one?
If you think you have an ingrown nail, it is always best to seek professional advice. In the interim, the following advice may be helpful:
Avoid wearing the shoes that are too tight and press on the toe.
When cutting your toenails, always cut them straight across keeping the nail edges free of the corners.
Do not be tempted to dig around the side of the nail as this may make the problem much worse.
If the toe is bleeding, sore or there is pus coming from the toe, then soaking your toe in warm salty water for a few minutes can ease the discomfort and reduce the swelling. If the infection is spreading up the toe onto your foot then see your podiatrist or doctor as you may need antibiotics.
What can the podiatrist do?
Every patient is different, but in the short term the podiatrist can remove part of the nail sticking into the flesh and give you advice on aftercare to ensure it heals rapidly. For some patients, if this is a recurring problem, for example due to the shape of the nail, it may require a small operation which the podiatrist can perform to permanently remove the edge of your nail. This is a simple procedure carried out under local anaesthetic to remove a slice of nail and then apply a chemical to prevent a part of the nail from re-growing.
If you would like advice on this or any other aspect of your foot health, please get in touch to make an appointment to see one of our podiatrists.