Ingrowing toenails (Ingrown / Onychocryptosis)
Watch the video
What is an ingrowing toenail?
An ingrowing toenail is a nail that is growing into the skin down the side of a nail. They can be red, painful and swollen and easily get infected. They can also produce hypergranulation which is a bulbous area of tissue which often weeps or bleeds.
They are similar to, but not the same as an involuted toenail which is when the nail is curved and the edges cause pain and irritation but don’t necessarily grow into the skin.
How can I help myself?
Nail problems are often caused by poor cutting technique, trauma, picking your nails, or badly fitting footwear. Genetic elements and the shape of your feet and toes may also play a part.
If you start to get an ingrowing toe nail, bathing the foot in luke warm, salt water for 5 minutes 1-2 times a day may help prevent it becoming too bad. We will post a video on this soon.
You need to also address any aggravating footwear or socks that could be putting pressure on the nails.
Although it is tempting to pick or cut down the side of the toe nail when they are hurting, it can make the problem worse or introduce an infection. If the ingrowing toe nail is mild, gently brushing down the side of the nail with a clean, soft toothbrush whilst salt water bathing may help keep the skin and nail apart and allow the nail to grow out, but do not do this if it is painful.
When to see a Podiatrist?
Most true ingrowing toe nails need professional treatment, in the early stages, if you see a Podiatrist, they may be able to help the nail grow out, most Podiatrists can also supply antibiotics. Antibiotics can help treat an infection, but if the root cause of the problem is not addressed, infection often reoccurs.
If the nail cannot be managed conservatively by a Podiatrist, it may be worth considering a partial or total nail removal. This is carried out under local anaesthetic by your podiatrist. Once the nail is removed, the nail matrix is usually treated with a chemical called phenol which helps to prevent nail regrowth and recurrence of the problem. It is only minor surgery but will take usually 6-10 weeks to heal depending on your health and lifestyle. You need to discuss the exact risks and healing times of the procedure with the podiatrist you see prior to having the surgery.
In the case of partial nail avulsion (just having the side(s) removed) the nail should look quite normal once healed (just slightly narrower) and the skin at the side of the toe will just grow up to the side of the nail. In the case of full nail removal (total nail avulsion), the nail bed will harden when it is healed like skin. Regrowth of the nail or part of the nail can occur in what we think is about 7-10% of surgeries and a repeat procedure may be required later on if this happens.
If you make an appointment to see a podiatrist about an ingrowing toe nail, the first appointment will usually be an assessment and conservative and surgical options can be discussed then.
Watch video of salt water bathing
Watch Video of nail Surgery
Watch video of healing process after nail surgery