Who would have thought a small piece of ingrowing toenail could cause so much pain?
If you’ve ever had an ingrowing toenail you will know exactly what I am talking about.
One slight little knock, your bed sheet resting on your toe or the throbbing pressure you feel wearing socks and shoes is enough to send you through the roof!
The good news is that you can prevent ingrowing toenails by using the correct nail cutting techniques and with the help of your podiatrist to keep your toes happy and pain free.
Ingrowing toenails are quite easily diagnosed but can present themselves in a number of ways depending on the severity of the nail spiking into the surrounding skin.
During the early stages, the skin around the ingrowing nail may become red and feel a little tender.
If it progresses and becomes infected, the surrounding skin may become more swollen, red and quite painful, especially in closed footwear.
If the infection becomes worse, you may see some yellow or green fluid (pus) oozing from around the nail which could cause more pain and there may be an overgrowth of skin around the nail.
Shoes that are tight or apply too much pressure may cause the nail to grow into the surrounding tissue.
Wearing footwear with a wide and deep toe box will keep pressure off your toenails and prevent ingrowing nails from starting.
Incorrect technique – Picking your nails or cutting them too short and down the sides is the quickest way to give yourself an ingrowing toenail and land a trip to your podiatrist clinic.
Correct technique – Always trim your nails straight across and along the white line. Should you have sharp edges after cutting them straight across, use a file/emery board to smooth out the corners.
Occasionally there may be a build of hard skin on the sides of the nail, by removing the hard skin and keeping it soft and supple will allow the nail to grow with no obstruction.
Once you’ve soaked your feet or come out the bath/shower, use a nail brush to gently rub away any hard skin on the sides of the nail and apply some olive oil or coconut oil to soften the skin.
If you suffer with sweaty feet, this will soften the skin allowing for easier penetration of the spiking nail.
Keep your feet clean and dry, wear cotton socks and use a foot powder when wearing closed shoes. Let your feet air as much as possible.
Start with soaking the affected toe in salt water. Whilst it won’t cure your ingrown nail, salt water soaks are often recommended as the first step and may help to prevent a localised infection if the nail has already pierced the skin.
It is suggested to soak your foot in a salt water foot bath ( 1 table spoon of salt in a litre of luke warm water) for a few minutes and try to clear any hard skin build up using a nail brush.
This is followed by dressing with antiseptic and a bandage until you can get some professional help.
If you experience pain, redness, swelling or pus from the side of the toenail, you may have an infection and should consult your podiatrist or GP as soon as possible.
When you visit your podiatrist, depending on the severity of your ingrowing toenail, you will be given the option of either conservative or surgical treatment.
If the ingrowing nail is small, your podiatrist will remove it and show you how to prevent it from coming back.
You may only need one treatment to cure it or you may need repeat treatment each time the nail grows back.
If your ingrowing toenail is a recurring problem, it is generally recommended that a podiatrist will perform a minor nail surgery procedure whereby the offending piece of nail is removed on a permanent basis.
Most podiatrists will perform a partial nail avulsion with phenolisation which is done under local anaesthetic.
Once the ingrown nail has been removed, the growth plate or nail root is destroyed using phenol, a strong chemical designed to stop the nail from growing back.
This procedure does not involve any cutting of the skin or stitches, and healing time is usually quite short. There may be a little discomfort or near pain free after the procedure with people able to resume normal activity within the next 1-2 days.