Ingrown toe nails are very common and cause significant discomfort.
They can be caused by the shape of your nail, especially if they are more ‘rainbow’ shaped than flat. Nail shape tends to run in families, as does the occurrence of ingrown toe nails. Ingrown toe nails can also be caused by tight footwear, sweaty socks that soften the skin allowing the nail to penetrate, thick fungal nails or after trauma such as kicking your toe against something or dropping an object onto your toe.
As well as being painful, ingrown toenails frequently become infected so it is important to seek help to manage your ingrown nails, especially if you are diabetic or have another condition that may compromise your ability to heal or fight infection.
- Prevention: always cut your toe nails straight across and don’t curve inwards at the corners. Avoid tight fitting shoes and change your socks if they get sweaty.
- Initial management: A small blade used by the podiatrist can be used to cut a small sliver out of the edge of your nail to remove the ingrown part. However the nail will grow back and may become ingrown again. This must be done regularly for persistent ingrown nails.
- After cutting the sliver of nail out, a small piece of cotton wool or anti-bacterial material may be wedged under the nail edge to temporarily prevent the nail becoming ingrown again and to give any broken or tender skin time to heal.
- Some nails can be braced to correct the shape (bottom left image). Not all nails are suitable for bracing and not all nails respond. It involves using a small wire glued to the nail to lift the curved edges to flatten the ‘rainbow’ shape.
- Surgery (Partial Nail Avulsion): (bottom right image). A small section of nail is removed from the ingrown side/s like what is done initially with the small blade. However it is performed under local anaesthetic and the nail is removed back to the root. The root is cauterised so that the nail will not grow back. This is a permanent fix as the nail edge is permanently removed.