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Ingrown Toenails

You are ready to wear those shoes you purchased in the sales last winter, but this year you have an ingrown toenail and those ugly shoes you thought you were finished with are back on your feet, to hide this very common foot problem, with 1 in every 10 people suffering from an ingrown nail during their entire lifetime. In today’s blog, we are going to discuss how an ingrown nail develops, why it develops and the treatments that are used to help get you back into those shoes you want to wear! 

What is an Ingrown Nail?

An ingrown toe nail, or its scientific name onychocryptosis (on-e-co-crypt-toe-sis), is when the nail or a sliver of nail penetrates the skin around and under the nail bed, causing discomfort, pain and possible infection. It is a common occurrence on the toenails, with the big toe the most common place for one to occur, although they can occur on the lesser toenails. Most people notice and seek attention for their ingrown nail when pain develops primarily on walking or when in a tight closed shoe. In other cases people seek attention when an infection has set in.

How do They Occur?

In most cases, they occur due to improper cutting of the nail itself. Normally a nail should be cut straight across. Most people, will cut they nail across and down the sides. These causes spicules of nail to remain in the nail bed and as the nail grow these are driven into the skin, causing an ingrown nail. Improper footwear such as high heels and steel toe-capped boots are very tight on the toe, which causes an increase in pressure and leads to the nail growing down in the skin rather than straight out. In other cases, severe trauma to the nail or genetic disposition can cause ingrown nails.

Can They be Treated?

Yes, they can be treated by a podiatrist. However, if the toe is infected, you should attend a GP for antibiotics, and once the infection clears, return to the podiatrist for treatment. In most cases after a quick assessment of the cause of the ingrown nail, the podiatrist can either do conservative treatment or surgical treatment. Conservative treatment, involves the podiatrist cutting the nail and removing the ingrown portion of the nail. This will be followed up with an antiseptic dressing and advice on aftercare. As this is conservative it may help relieve the pain and clear the ingrown nail, but they can return if the cause of the problem is not managed too. Surgical treatment involves numbing the affected toe with local anaesthetic and removing the ingrown nail with special equipment. In most cases, the podiatrist/GP may apply a chemical called phenol to the area, which prevents the removed section of the nail from ever growing back and fixing the problem entirely.

Is Prevention Possible?

Prevention is possible by following these simple steps:

  • Cutting the nails straight across
  • Avoid picking at the nails with fingers or any instruments
  • Avoid tight fitting shoes, as constant trauma will lead to ingrowing
  • Avoid direct and intense trauma to the area
  • Attend a podiatrist regularly to make sure your nails are growing correctly

Author: Christoper Joyce