Ingrown Toenails

What are ingrown toenails?

In grown toenails, also known medically as Onychocryptosis, are caused when the edges of the nail grow into the skin and cause pain. Many times, this is caused by incorrect trimming of nails, tight shoe gear or nail disease. Onychomycosis, also known as fungal nails, is a common cause of ingrown toenails. A fungus will cause the toe nail to thicken and subsequently to grow into the nail corners, causing pain. If someone has an ingrown toenail that is not treated pain can intensify to a point where shoe gear is not tolerable. If an ingrown toenail remains untreated an infection can develop. When an ingrown nail becomes infected is called a paronychia.

How do I treat an ingrown nail to prevent an infection?

Proper nail trimming is the key to prevention. Podiatrists recommend cutting nails straight across and not into the corners. Many adolescents tend to be “pickers” and this is a common age group for infected ingrown toenails. If someone is developing an ingrown it is recommend seeing a physician as soon as possible. The physician has proper instrumentation to help relieve the pressure an ingrown nail may be causing.

How do I know if I have an infection and how can it be treated?

If an ingrown nail is untreated an infection can develop. The signs and symptoms of an infected toenail, also known as a paronychia, are redness, swelling, pus, increased pain and an odor. If one is suspicious that they have an infection it is recommended to see a physician as soon as possible. If it truly is an infection your physician will recommend removing the offending nail border and draining the infection. This will require local anesthesia to the toe, which can be done in the office with minimal post-operative pain. Once the infection is drained you will most likely be placed on antibiotics for a few days. You will be given instructions on how to dress the wound and follow up with your physician in a few days.

What if I continue to get infected ingrown toenails?

If you tend to get infected toenails a few times a year it is recommend to remove the cause of the problem. This would be done via a procedure called a matrixectomy, where the root of the offending nail is permanently destroyed.  This surgical procedure can be performed in the office with local anesthesia to the toe. Once the toe is anesthetized the physician will remove a section of the nail that has been causing the problem. At that time a chemical can be placed over the nail root to kill the root. One can also have a similar procedure where the nail root is physically removed from the body. There are different methods of removing/destroying the nail root. Whichever method you and your physician choice will determine your post-operative course. Most patients are completed healed within two weeks.

In summary, ingrown toenails and infection are preventable. If they do develop seeking medical attention is necessary, which can prevent worsening of the problem in the present and in the future.