It’s no secret: ingrown toenails can be excruciating. This small yet mighty problem can cause your toe to swell up and redden, make wearing footwear almost impossible, and see many patients hobbling into our clinic after finding it difficult to sleep the night before.


Unfortunately, for many people, ingrown toenails aren’t a one-off problem but keep coming back month after month, and year after year. So what causes ingrown toenails to keep coming back and how can you fix them once and for all? This is what the Cartwright Podiatry team are sharing with you today.


When is a painful toe an ingrown toenail?

Before we start, we just thought we’d define what an ingrown toenail is, compared with a painful or swollen toe. An ingrown toenail develops when part of a nail pierces the surrounding skin and begins to grow inwards. It is literally like a sharp splinter in your skin – except that your body has created that splinter and as the nail continues to naturally grow and lengthen, it moves further into the skin. 


This is different from a regular painful and swollen toe, where the cause of the swelling may be something that is temporary or external (like trauma). 


We’ve shared more about ingrown toenails and the symptoms they cause here


Why do I keep getting ingrown toenails?

Every ingrown toenail has a definite cause, and unfortunately, this cause is often self-inflicted, meaning that it’s a direct result of our own actions (or inactions). If the cause of the ingrown toenails is never addressed or treated, then it’s very likely that the ingrown toenail may come back in the future. Common causes of recurrent ingrown toenails include:


Wearing tight, narrow, pointed or generally ill-fitting footwear

Wearing shoes that are too tight or poorly fitting can cramp your toes together, pushing your nail into the surrounding skin. This encourages the nail to pierce and penetrate the skin, and unfortunately, will continue to do so in the future if you continue to wear the same shoes regularly.


Picking or pulling the toenails

We’ve all known someone who ‘picks’ their toenail and rips it off instead of cutting the nail using nail scissors or clippers. As the ripping tends to go down the side of the nail, it often leaves behind nail spicules that, due to their location, can’t be seen – but can definitely be felt when they continue to grow and pierce the nail.


Rounding the nails when trimming

Even when you do use nail tools to trim your nails, curving the nails down into the sides may encourage them to become ingrown. The better way to trim the nail is to cut them straight across in a straight line, and then gently round off the very edges using a nail file if needed.


It’s hereditary

Finally, your genetics may simply make you predisposed to developing recurring ingrown toenails. This is particularly true for those that have naturally curved or pinched (‘involuted’) toenails, larger toenails, or more skin surrounding the nail.


There are some instances, however, where a first-time ingrown toenail is less likely to recur, like dropping something heavy on the toenail (trauma) or borrowing a pair of ill-fitting shoes for just one day.


How can I stop my ingrown toenail from recurring?

Our podiatry team offers a number of treatments for ingrown toenails, including a permanent solution in the form of ingrown toenail surgery. Don’t worry about the name ‘surgery’ – this is a safe, sterile and simple procedure that is performed in your regular treatment chair – and done so successfully many times every week.


It’s called a partial nail avulsion, and it involves removing the small section of your nail that continues to grow into the skin and cause you pain. Once the nail section is removed, we apply a chemical to destroy the nail growing cells in that small corner of the nail – and voilayou no longer grow nail in the problematic area. The procedure is all completed within 60 minutes and is painless as the toe is numbed using local anaesthetic. 


We guarantee this procedure – so much so that if the nail that has had the procedure grows back, we will perform the procedure again free of charge. We’ve filled you in on all of the details, the process, the recovery, and the common questions we get on ingrown toenail surgery here


Ready to say goodbye to ingrown toenails for good?

If you’re sick of your ingrown toenails coming back time after time, and want to say goodby to them once and for all, our experienced podiatry team here in Tahmoor, Sydney is here to help. Book your appointment with us by calling (02) 8405 6850 or book online.