Ingrown Toenail ( Onychocryptosis)

A true ingrown toenail is a nail that, instead of growing forward and outward as usual, grows into the flesh at the sides of the nail. The big toe is most commonly affected, however any to nail can ingrow. It can feel as if you have a splinter and can become very painful to touch. In more severe cases, the flesh about the nail may appear inflamed (hot, red and swollen) and may weep, bleed or exude pus.
A nail that is curling (involuted or convoluted) into the flesh, but isn’t actually piercing the skin isn’t an ingrown toenail, but can feel very painful and also appear red and inflamed as well.

There are many factors that can contribute to the development of an ingrown toe nail. Common factors include the shape of the nail, injury to the nail, abnormal pressure upon the surrounding flesh pushing it against the nail (e.g. from tight shoes), sweaty feet, brittle nails and a poor nail cutting technique. Whatever the cause, the problem is best dealt with as soon as it develops as the quicker the treatment the less painful it will be for you.

To avoid this problem:

  • Aalways cut nails straight across, or follow the shape of the toe – don’t be tempted to cut down the sides of the nail
  • Avoid moist, soggy feet by rotating your footwear so each pair has a chance to dry out thoroughly
  • Wear well fitting shoes, avoid man-made materials and choose socks and shoes of natural fibre
  • In the summer, wear open-toed sandals where possible.

There are no effective self treatments available for a true ingrown toe nail. All ingrown toe nails require a visit to a podiatrist / chiropodist or doctor. If there are signs of infection it may be prudent to consult your GP for antibiotics.

What can a chiropodist / podiatrist do?

It depends how far the condition has progressed. In many cases a single visit will be suffice to alleviate the problem by removing the offending spike of nail and apply an antiseptic dressing. However, if the condition has progressed too far or the toe is too painful to touch then a further appointment will be made to remove a section of the nail under a local anaesthetic. The chiropodist / podiatrist will explain the procedure fully to you at your assessment appointment.

Once correctly treated future problems with the affected nail are very unlikely.