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Ingrown Toenails

An ingrown toenail

An ingrown toenail (technically called onychocryptosis) involves a spike of toenail punctures the skin, resulting in an infection. The infected skin swells and pushes further onto the impaling spike.  They can be very, very painful.

In a longer term problem, your toe will continue to produce more skin cells to seal the puncture wound but, due to the nail remaining in place, it cannot succeed.  The skin forms what is known as ‘proud flesh’ (hypergranulation tissue). which makes it even more difficult for the toe to resolve the problem without help.

An ingrown toenail starts from recurrent trauma to the nail, the shape of the nail or by incorrect nail cutting technique.  This can result in using the wrong kind of tool or picking at the nails.  Alternatively, a lot of people feel that they have ‘a bit of an ingrown nail’.  This causes them to dig around in the nail edge with any sort of gardening tool they can lay their hands on, traumatising the nail and the skin and leading to infection .  It is in this way that many chronic nail problems begin.

If you have a painful nail or if you are about to indulge in self-mutilation, call us instead on (07) 5597 1063

It is a myth that a V should be scored in the end of the nail to prevent an ingrown toe nail. The reasoning behind this idea is that if you cut a V in the nail, the edges will grow together as the nail grows itself out. This doesn’t happen – the shape of the nail is pre-determined by the growing area at the base of the toe, not by the end.

Don’t wear shoes and socks that are too tight.

Those with impaired circulation or diabetes should not do any self care of their ingrown toenails. See a Podiatrist as soon as possible.

Antibiotics may occasionally be required to treat the infected ingrown toenail, but remember that the cause of the infection (the nail spike) is still in there, so there is not a lot of point in treating the infection without a podiatrist addressing the cause.

A professional Podiatrist can easily remove the nail that has penetrated the skin, often quite painlessly. If the ingrown nail is too painful, a local anaesthetic injection may be used to do this without any pain.

Regular treatment by a Podiatrist may be needed, depending on the original cause.  If the nail is obviously doomed to a life time of misery, a simple procedure can remove a small strip of nail permanently and stop any further occurrences of ingrown nails forever. This procedure is performed under local anaesthetic in the clinic rooms without the need to go to hospital. This procedure has a high success rate with minimal complications.