An ingrown toenail may become infected or inflamed. Michael Wilding from the Podiatry Department at Singapore General Hospital advises on the treatment and prevention measures.
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Ingrown toenail is caused by a nail spike piercing the skin at one or both edges. Another condition is when the nail is excessively curved from side to side, causing the nail to pinch into the skin.
Are they serious?
No. Though painful and alarming ingrown toenails are a minor problem easily treated with a minor surgical procedure. Treatment is not affected by how bad the toe looks so there is no need to worry if the appearance of the toe is worse than it was.
How are ingrown nails treated?
Ingrown nails rarely resolve themselves and often recur if treated conservatively as this does not remove the base cause.
The best treatment is to remove the offending section of nail permanently under local anaesthetic. This is quick and simple and, once the anaesthetic is in, patients don’t feel any pain. They are also lying down so they don’t see anything either.
The removed section of nail does not regrow. Regrowth is prevented by either chemical or electrical destruction of the nail-producing tissue in that area. Again this is painless, leaves no scarring and healing occurs within weeks. There is a gap initially where the section of nail was removed but this closes, leaving no sign that anything was done. It is rarely required to remove the whole nail.
Partial or full regrowth of the offending section of nail is extremely rare.
How can ingrown toenails be prevented?
Prevention is not always possible but you can improve the odds by heeding the following advice:
- Cut your toenails correctly. Never cut down the sides, even if you can see what you are doing, as this can leave a sharp ridge of nail that can dig into the skin.
- Avoid footwear that will press in on your toes and push the nail and adjacent skin together.
- Keep your toes clean and dry. Also, change socks daily and avoid footwear that makes your feet sweat. Moist skin loses elasticity, making it easier for a sharp nail to penetrate.
Ingrown toenails are painful but sufferers often delay seeking help through fear of the treatment. Our advice is, if you think you have an ingrown toenail, don’t worry, they are quick and easy to treat.