An ingrown toenail happens when the edges or corners of the nail, usually on the big toe, (but not exclusively), grow into the skin next to the nail and pierce the skin. There may also be bleeding or infection.

It is a common condition which is often hereditary and they are extremely painful, causing swelling, redness, and if not dealt with in time can lead to an infection. When swelling takes place in the foot the pain can be excruciating as there is nowhere for the excess fluid to go, making the skin tight, red and very sore to even the most gentle of touch.

The second most common reason for an ingrowing toenail is trauma.

The toe can be affected on either on one or both sides of the toe.

Ingrown toenails can usually be treated at home, but if the pain is severe or spreading, it may be necessary to come and see us at the clinic, to prevent complications and relieve symptoms.

Anyone with poor circulation, such as those with diabetes or peripheral vascular disease, are more likely to have complications and it would be wise to let a professional deal with it.

What can be done to relieve the symtoms?

At home there are a number of things that you can do at home.

You will know if you are suffering from an ingrowing toenail if the toe is inflamed, sore and red.

If you wear heels regularly you will be more comfortable if you putting them away for a while until the problem resolves.

Tight fitting shoes such as football boots will also be best left until you get this sorted and feeling better.

Here are our tips to help get things sorted at home:

• Move into some footwear that gives your toes comfort and room to move.
• If you have pain that is hard to bear, use ibuprofen and paracetamol to help. A combination of these may be taken as an alternative to codeine-based analgesics for short-term management of pain. Make sure to follow the instructions on the packets.
• Take some time out to bathe your toes in warm salted water. Fill a bowl with warm water and throw in a handful of salt. Do this for just 3-5 minutes at a time, several times a day.
• Dry your feet thoroughly after bathing and keep them dry unless of course you are bathing them!

Following the above guidelines should help to get your toe feeling back to normal.

If symptoms persist, treating it at home will NOT be helpful if:

• the area becomes swollen, red and hot (infected)
• if your temperature is very high or you feel hot and shivery
• if you are Diabetic or have peripheral vascular disease, as foot problems can often be more serious.

It’s time to seek our help if you experience any of the three symptoms above. If the area is infected, we can prescribe antibiotics.

Ingrown toenails should be treated as soon as symptoms appear, especially if the person has diabetes, nerve damage in the foot or leg, or poor circulation in the foot. Otherwise, complications can occur.

What can we do to help?

We can remove some of the nail that is pushing into the skin which will give instant relief. Some people who suffer with Ingrowing toenails choose to visit every couple of months to enable us to do this for them.

Some choose to opt for surgery to prevent the problem from coming back.

Surgery

This is called a toenail avulsion.

The edges of the toenail will be cut away and the cells in the nail bed are destroyed using a substance called phenol. This is all performed under a local anaesthetic, so the area is numbed and although you are awake you will feel nothing.

Unless you really want to see what’s going on, it’s usual that the area is covered away from your sight. We can offer you a film to watch to keep your attention elsewhere!

If the nail has become very thick or distorted, the whole nail may be taken out, this is not usual and would only be done after discussion and with your consent, again under a local anaesthetic.

Surgery is not usually very painful, and most people can get back to normal activity the next day. The toe may feel tender when the anaesthetic wears off. Ibuprofen &/or paracetamol may help.

For 1 to 2 weeks, it is advised that you wear either very soft and spacious footwear or open-toed sandals.

It’s also important to know that immediately after surgery any car insurance will be void for 24 hours. So it’s important that you have someone available to drive you home.

If you have any further questions we’d be really pleased to help.