An ingrowing toenail is where a piece of nail pierces the flesh of the toe. It can feel as if you have a splinter, be extremely painful and inflamed or infected. In more severe cases, it can cause pus and bleeding. Ingrowing toenails most commonly affect the big toenail, but can affect the other toes too. A nail that is curling (involuted or convoluted) into the flesh, but isn’t actually piercing the skin, isn’t an ingrowing toenail but can feel very painful and can also appear red and inflamed.
What causes it?
There are many genetic factors that can make you prone to ingrowing toenails, including your posture (the way you stand), your gait (the way you walk) and any foot deformity such as a bunion, hammer toes or excessive pronation of the feet (when your foot rolls inward excessively). Your nails may also have a natural tendency to splay or curl out instead of growing straight, encouraging your nail to grow outwards or inwards into the flesh.
One of the most common causes is not cutting your toenails properly, such as cutting nails too low in order to relieve the pressure and discomfort of an involuted nail.
Tight footwear, hosiery and socks can also push your toe flesh onto the nail so that it pierces the skin. Also, if you sweat excessively or don’t rotate your footwear, this makes the skin moist and weak so that it is easily penetrated by the nail. If you have brittle nails with sharp edges or are in the habit of breaking off bits of nail that are sticking out, you are also more likely to get an ingrowing toenail.
How our podiatrists/chiropodists will treat you will depend largely on the severity of your condition:
- For the most basic painful and irritable ingrowing toenail, the offending spike of nail will be removed and covered with an antiseptic dressing.
- For toes too painful to touch, a local anaesthetic will be injected before removing the offending portion of nail.
- For involuted nails, part of the nail that is curling into the flesh is removed and then the edges of the nail are filed to a smooth surface.
- For any bleeding or discharge from an infection, or even excessive healing flesh (hypergranulation tissue) around the nail, antibiotics may be required to manage the infection as well as having the offending spike removed.
- For those particularly prone to ingrowing toenails from underlying problems such as poor gait, a partial nail avulsion (PNA) may be recommended along with finding a more permanent solution to the underlying condition. This procedure is done under a local anaesthetic where part of the nail is removed (including the root), leaving a permanently narrower nail. In some cases a total nail avulsion (TNA) may be performed, where the entire nail plate and root are removed. In either case, the chemical phenol is used to cauterise the nail and prevent it regrowing.
Our Podiatrists/chiropodists are qualified and experienced in undertaking toe nail surgery which can be offer at the clinic in Cardiff.
If you have diabetes, are taking steroids or are on anti-coagulants, don’t attempt to cut your nails or remove an ingrowing spikes of nail yourself, see our podiatrists/chiropodists for advice.Make an Appointment