Ingrown toenails. They’re so small, yet threaten so much pain. Some of our patients can’t tolerate the weight of a bedsheet on their toe - let alone their shoes and socks. So why do they keep coming back - and what can you do to keep them gone for good?
Today, the South Burnett Podiatry team talk all about persistent ingrown toenails and how you can say buh-bye to them permanently.
First thing’s first - how do I know if my sore toe is an ingrown toenail?
An ingrown toenail occurs when part of your nail pierces and grows into the skin that surrounds it. The penetrating part of the nail may be very small, and it may occur towards the tip of the nail, or in the base of the nail.
Once it has pierced the skin, the side of the toe usually becomes swollen, red and painful to touch. Sometimes, blood may leak from the wound. If the ingrown nail becomes infected, you may see yellow or white discharge, too.
Ingrown toenails can affect one or both sides of the nail. Ingrown nails most often occur in the big toenails, but can affect any of the lesser toenails too. Anyone can develop ingrown toenails - we’ve even seen them in four-month-olds!
So, why do ingrown toenails come back?
To answer this, we must first understand why ingrown toenails occur:
- Poor nail cutting technique: when nails are curved down into the sides instead of being cut across in a straight line, this may encourage the nail to grow down into the sides.
- Pulling the nails, instead of cutting them: when nails are picked or pulled off instead of trimmed using nail tools, small nail spicules can be left at the sides of the nail. This may be in a place you can’t see down the side of the nail. While it won’t cause immediate pain, as the nail grows, the nail spicule may penetrate and grow into the skin. If you keep doing this, your ingrown toenail may keep coming back.
- Wearing ill-fitting footwear: when you wear shoes that are too narrow and tight, especially those that are pointed at the forefoot, it pushes the skin around your toes into the nail. This may result in the nail piercing the skin, and will continue to do so in the future if you keep wearing the same shoes.
- Good old genetics: sometimes, the shape of your nail is dictated by genetics, and it is this shape that makes the nail more likely to ingrow. Similarly, some people have bigger toes with more skin that the nail may grow into.
Truthfully, the reason that we see most often for ingrown toenails coming back is people not changing their habits. They continue to do the same thing and expect a different result - and we all know what Albert Einstein said about that!
How can I permanently stop my ingrown toenail from coming back?
While changing the above habits can reduce your risk of your ingrown nail recurring, it doesn’t guarantee permanent resolution. There is, however, a procedure we perform in the clinic that can offer a permanent solution. It’s called a partial nail avulsion.
This is a short procedure where we remove the small section at the side of your nail that tends to ingrow. We then apply a chemical that is designed to destroy the nail-growing cells in this small section of nail. Hence, the nail does not grow back.
Don’t worry - you still maintain a fairly normal nail appearance - one side of your nail will just look straight and a little shorter. It usually isn’t noticeable unless you point it out!
The complete procedure is performed within an hour in your regular treatment chair under local anaesthetic. This time includes the prep work and dressing the toe afterwards - so the actual procedure time is closer to 20 minutes! We recommend you rest for the remainder of the day and avoid physical activity for the days following, but aside from that, you’re able to return to work or school the next day or in the days following.
It should be noted that while this is a permanent solution, in a small percentage of cases, the body is able to repair the nail-growing cells so that they keep growing the nail. If this occurs within the first year of your PNA procedure, we’ll perform it again free of charge.
Ready to finally say goodbye to that ingrown toenail?
If you’re ready to say goodbye to that ingrown toenail that has been coming back for years, we’d love to help! Our podiatrists are experienced, knowledgeable and want the best outcomes for you and your foot health. You can book your appointment online here or call us on (07) 4162 7633.