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Ingrowing Toenails

An in-growing toenail is one that pierces the flesh of the toe. It can often be a splinter of nail digging into the flesh, and can be extremely painful. In more severe cases, it can become infected, producing pus and bleeding. In-growing toenails most commonly affect the large 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 a true in-growing toenail, but can also be very painful and inflamed.

What is the treatment for an in-growing toenail?
If left untreated, and they become infected, the infection can spread to the rest of the toe and foot. The quicker you treat them, the less painful the treatment.

For the most basic in-growing toenail, your podiatrist will carefully remove the offending spike of nail. If you have involuted nails, your podiatrist may remove the bit that’s curling into the flesh and file the edges of the nail to relieve discomfort and advise on preventing this happening again. If you have bleeding or discharge from the toe, you may need antibiotics to beat the infection, after having the offending spike removed. If you are particularly prone to in-growing toenails, your podiatrist may recommend a more permanent solution to treating the nail problem.

Partial nail avulsion’s (PNA) are done under a local anaesthetic where a small section of the offending nail edge is removed including the growing area at the base of the nail, so the nail becomes slightly narrower. A chemical is used to prevent the nail re-growing along the offending edge. After surgery, the overall appearance of the nail looks normal – to the extent that some people even forget which nail they’ve had done!

High risk patients
If you have diabetes, are taking steroids or are on anti-coagulants, don’t attempt any form of self treatment by trying to remove the in-growing spike of nail yourself; refer to your podiatrist as soon as you can.

What to do before seeing a podiatrist
Once you’ve booked an appointment with us, help relieve the discomfort in the meantime by bathing your foot in a warm salty footbath. This will help prevent infection and reduce inflammation. After the foot bath put a clean, dry dressing over the area to keep it clean. Rest your foot as much as possible and wear shoes with plenty of room, or open toes.