Ingrown toenails occur when part of a nail pierces the surrounding skin and begins to grow inwards, causing pain, swelling, redness and much discomfort. It commonly affects the big toe, can occur on one or both sides of the toenail, and can affect one or both feet. Once the nail penetrates the skin, the toe becomes vulnerable to complications like infection – especially as the wound is unable to close while the nail continues to grow deeper.
Ingrown toenails are often easy to identify because of the marked swelling at one or more sides of the nail combined with significant pain for those affected. Other symptoms may include:
Bleeding where the nail has ingrown
Yellow/clear/green discharge – this may indicate the presence of an infection
What causes ingrown toenails?
Numerous causes can encourage ingrown toenails to develop. These include:
An improper nail cutting technique – to minimise the risk of the nail edge growing into the skin, nails should be cut in a straight, clean line with no fraying or split edges, and no curving or ‘rounding’ the edges of the nail down the sides.
Pulling or picking at the nails – this is when you pull at the top of the nail instead of cutting them in a straight line with a tool. This can leave a spicule at the edge of the nail where it is ripped off. Often, this spicule is deep down the side of the nail where it is not visible or felt – until it starts growing and pierces the skin.
Tight footwear – this creates pressure on the sides of the toes that can push the nail into the surrounding skin
The shape of the nail – this can also play a role, especially where the nail is particularly involuted or curved.
Genetic predisposition – unless the shape of the nail is acquired from injury, it is often linked to uncontrollable genetic factors that dictate the features and shape of the nail.
How do you treat ingrown toenails?
If you have an ingrown toenail, see your Podiatrist as soon as possible – before the nail grows deeper into the skin or an infection develops. Conditions including diabetes, nerve damage and poor circulation can increase your risk of developing an infection, so it’s important to get your toe treated.
We can manage your ingrown toenail as a one-off treatment or correct them permanently. For a one-off treatment for first-time ingrown toenails, we can trim back the painful nail edge or spicule using specialised nail tools. Removing that spicule means that the pierced skin is able to heal, the inflammation, and hence pain, will also be able to settle. This is done with or without anaesthetic, depending on your preference and level of pain.
If you’ve had ingrown toenail infections previously, then you may wish to permanently correct the problem. The procedure for the permanent correction is called a Partial Nail Avulsion (PNA). It involves surgically removing a small section of nail under local anaesthetic and applying a chemical to destroy the nail growing cells. The result is a clean, straight nail edge that is only marginally shorter than your standard nail and is often barely noticeable after it has healed.
Need your painful ingrown toenail gone?
Book online or get in touch
with us today
Need your painful ingrown
Book online or get in touch with us today