WHAT CAUSES INGROWN TOENAILS AND HOW TO TREAT THEM
Onychocryptosis, also known as an ingrown toenail, is a condition in which a spike or serrated edge of nail has pierced the superficial layer of skin of the sulcus and penetrated the dermal tissues. This leads to acute inflammation in the surrounding soft tissues, which often becomes infected and is very painful.
Ingrown toenails frequently affect the big toe and are more common in adolescent males. They are also one of the most common toenail problems we treat at Mint Foot Care Podiatry. Ingrown toenails are known for being stubborn, painful and difficult to remove, with many patients suffering from recurring ingrown toenails.
WHAT CAUSES INGROWN TOENAILS
Ingrown toenails can be caused by anything that causes your toenail to pierce through its surrounding skin. This includes:
- Improper nail cutting. Cutting the sides of your toenail at sharp angles can encourage the nail to grow into the surrounding skin. We recommend cutting your toenail straight across and filing the corners with a nail file to prevent this from happening.
- Trauma / Injury. Any force or impact that causes your toenail to pierce into your skin can lead to an ingrown toenail. This includes dropping a heavy object on your foot, stubbing your toe on something hard or from sports that place recurrent high pressure on your toes such as ballet, soccer and football.
- Involuted nails. Some people naturally have curved or irregularly shaped toenails that make them more prone to developing ingrown toenails.
- Excessive sweating of the skin. Excessive sweat and moisture can soften the skin, making it less resilient to damage and allowing easy entry of the toenail through the skin.
- Pressure from ill-fitting footwear. The wrong footwear can place unnecessary pressure on your toes, causing your nails to push down on your skin and encouraging the growth of ingrown toenails.
At Mint Foot Care, our podiatrist will examine your ingrown toenail and prescribe conservative treatment or surgery. Our recommendation will be based on the severity of your ingrown toenail and your lifestyle.
- Conservative methods. Conservative treatments are often the first line of treatment for ingrown toenails, especially for first-time patients and minor cases. It involves carefully cutting out the part of your toenail that’s piercing your skin and applying antiseptic to prevent bacterial infection. Packing may also be inserted underneath your nail edge to prevent it from piercing your skin again while it heals. Our conservative treatment also includes providing ongoing management for your ingrown toenail, including suggestions on how to cut your affected toenail, hygiene tips and footwear recommendations.
- Surgery. Surgery is a minimally invasive, permanent solution that may be required when an ingrown toenail is recurrent, infected and continually painful. We also recommend surgery if you are unable to wear shoes or if your condition inhibits work, sporting or other activities. Depending on the severity of your case, we can perform a nail wedge resection or total nail avulsion, removing either a piece of your toenail or the entire nail. After an initial consultation, we perform this surgery under local anaesthesia in our on-site treatment room, using sterile equipment so that the entire procedure will be safe, painless with minimal post-operative discomfort. Surgery for ingrown toenails also involves chemically cauterising (burning) the root of your toenail by applying a chemical called Phenol to prevent it from growing back.
PREVENTION AND MAINTENANCE
Aside from knowing what causes ingrown toenails, it’s also important to understand how to prevent this condition after receiving the right treatment.
Our podiatrist can examine your footwear and walking pattern, which are two common contributing factors to recurring ingrown toenails. We may also recommend appropriate footwear and custom orthotics to reduce pressure on problem areas.
We can also give advice on correct nail cutting to ensure proper nail growth over time. If necessary, we can even perform general nail care/medical pedicures that can help prevent ingrown toenails and maintain their good condition.