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What are ingrowing toenails?

Apart from being incredibly painful and inconvenient, an ingrowing toenail, known medically as onychocryptosis, is where a sliver of nail pierces the flesh of the toe. This can occur on any digit, but is predominantly seen on the big toe. Once the skin has been breached with the nail spike, the body will typically mount an inflammatory response, resulting in pain, swelling, redness, pus, warmth and in severe cases growth of hyper granulation tissue, which looks a bit like a small fleshy brain on the side of the toe.

What Causes Ingrowing nails?

  • Tight fitting shoes and socks, which magnifies the pressure on the skin surrounding the nail.
  • Sweaty feet, known medically as hyperhidrosis. If the skin is moist from excessive sweating it is more susceptible to being pierced by a nail spike.
  • Being overzealous with the nail nippers, in other words cutting down the sides of your nail or cutting the nails too short.
  • Trauma to the nail, such as stubbing your toe or dropping something on it.
  • Congenital nail shape. Some people’s nails are naturally more curved than others, making them more susceptible to onychocryptosis.

What treatment options are available for Ingrowing nails?

  • Antibiotics- Whilst antibiotics are essential in managing the signs and symptoms of infection, they will not treat the actual nail spike puncturing the surrounding skin, therefore infection after infection is likely if treatment is not sought from a podiatrist.
  • Conservative management – Podiatrists can cut out the offending piece of nail during a routine appointment, for some patients this provides the temporary relief they are looking for. Unfortunately, in many cases the nail will grow back and pierce the same area of skin within several weeks, so regular appointments are needed.
  • Wearing comfortable shoes that don’t pinch the toes.
  • Keeping the feet clean, dry and as sweat free as possible.
  • Nail surgery- For some patients the ingrowing toenail is too painful and too far advanced to treat during a routine podiatry appointment. In these cases where the patient is experiencing recurrent infections and severe pain, nail surgery offers a more permanent solution. The procedure is carried out by a podiatrist under a local anesthetic. All or part of the nail is removed using sterile surgical instruments before a chemical, called phenol, is applied to the nail matrix to prevent regrowth. The procedure is successful in about 95% of cases.

For more information or to make an appointment at Foot Centric, please:

  • Call: 01782 703272
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