An ingrown toenail is one of the more painful conditions that we treat as a podiatrist but also one the most common we manage.
An ingrown toe nail (or known by Podiatrists as Onychocryptosis) is where a piece of the nail plate grows into the skin. It is essentially like having a piece of glass or a splinter in your toe. It can become very painful and commonly infected increasing the pain. Technically, an ingrown toenail is defined when it pierces the skin but a nail can push up against the sulci (skin to the sides of the nail) and still cause pain without it breaking the skin.
Ingrown toenails are very common and are seen in young and old people alike. One of the more common causes is incorrectly fitted footwear. If the shoes are too narrow or short the toes will be compressed and the nail will become squashed and pushed into the skin. Other causes can include trauma to the nail, the anatomy of your toes and certain activities that may require specially fitted footwear like ski boots, flippers or football boots. One thing that will really increase your chances of developing an ingrown toe nail is picking at the nails yourself (known as onychophagia).
A Podiatrist is highly trained in the removing small pieces of nail in a small area. Often removing the offending piece of nail will give instant relief. Managing any infection and preventing any future infection is also very important. Also looking at why the ingrown toe nail has developed in the first place is also addressed as a means to preventing the nail from ingrowing in the future.
Sometimes, no matter how much prevention is implemented, there is the chance it can grow back. In these cases removing the portion of nail that is causing the problem is considered. This is called a Partial Nail Avulsion (PNA).
The Podiatrist will inject a small amount of Local Anesthetic to numb the toe. Then using specialised tools, a piece of the nail that continues to grow into the skin is removed. It is removed from a point back past the nail fold where the nail is made (called the matrix). Once it is removed, Phenol is applied to the matrix which helps prevent the nail from growing back again. It all takes around 60 minutes and can be done in the Podiatry rooms.