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  • Writer's pictureJessica

Ingrowing Toenails.....such a pain in the foot!

I suffered myself with these a lot as a child and teenager, so I am very empathetic when dealing with them!

What is an ingrowing toenail?

A true ingrown nail is when a bit of nail pierces the skin of the toe. It is very sore, often red and inflamed and can easily become infected and then bleed or release pus. They can occur on any toe, though most often the big toe.

People also get involuted/convoluted nails, where the nail curves around and puts pressure on the toe, especially in footwear. This in itself is sore and can make the toe red, though it is not a true ingrown nail.

What causes it?

Common reasons for ingrowing toenails are picking, cutting the nail too short or wearing very tight shoes. Even a one-off knock to the toe can cause an episode.

There’s often a genetic predisposition, and even the way you walk and put pressure through the toe can cause them.

Who gets it?

It happens a lot in children as their feet sweat more and they are more likely to pick their nails. Active people who sweat more are also prone.

Is it serious?

Quick treatment is key. Although not usually serious, infection can set in if left untreated and if you have a condition such as diabetes, poor circulation or lower immunity this can be a problem.

What are the treatments?

Good first-aid for ingrown toenails is to soak the affected toe in a salty footbath (using cooled kettle water and a couple of teaspoons of salt). A sterile dressing should then be applied if the area is weepy or bleeding. Try and keep pressure off the toe.

It may be worth speaking to the GP before your Podiatry appointment for antibiotics if the toe is infected. Remember the antibiotics will not treat the root cause of the problem, and a podiatry appointment will be needed.

At your appointment, the area will be cleaned and the side of the nail gently trimmed back (remember – I’ve had these and I’ve had them treated, so I really do take care).

If this is too painful to cope with then a local anaesthetic can be injected first at the base of the toe (near the joint – not in the sore bit!) to numb the area. However, this stings itself, so if we can treat without administering it we will.

A permanent solution may be available in the form of Nail Surgery. This is permanent removal of some or all of the nail under a local anaesthetic, using a chemical to stop the nail coming back, it is over 95% successful. Full healing time is 1 – 3 months depending on the procedure. This can be discussed as an option, but a separate appointment will need to be booked.

How can I prevent it?

Cut nails straight across, avoid nail scissors and don’t rip off the last bit of nail. It is easier to cut them after a bath/shower.

Maintain good foot hygiene to deal with sweaty feet. Rotate shoes to allow them time to dry. Wear a natural fibre sock that allows your skin to dry. Allow some air to get to your toes.

If you have increased risk feet due to diabetes, are taking steroids or are on anti-coagulants, don’t attempt to cut your nails or remove an ingrowing spike of nail yourself. Use a file to keep sharp bits down, or see a registered professional.

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