Ingrown toenails can be such a nuisance; from simply looking unsightly, causing discomfort when walking or even just trying to sleep because of the light pressure of the bed sheets!
But just what are ingrown toenails? who is at risk? How are they treated? And can they be prevented?
There is unfortunately a lot of confusion surrounding when and how people develop ingrown toenails and what to do about it when they occur.
What is an ingrown toenail? And how does it occur?
An ingrown toenail is a painful irritation of the sulcus (the area of skin that wraps around and attaches to the two sides of the toenails and fingernails) as a result of pressure of the nail against the skin. This can occur as a result of abnormal growth patterns of the nail from genetic or hereditary factors, from a single incident when a person kicks their toe or from repetitive micro-traumas that usually originate from inappropriate footwear. Inappropriate footwear takes a number of forms including too loose, too tight, unfastened (no laces, Velcro or buckle straps) or fastened but with the fastening left done-up or undone when the foot goes in and out of the shoe). All of these considerations
If left untreated the nail continues to irritate the skin and causes inflammation/swelling. This inflammation/swelling increases the pressure of the nail against the skin and perpetuates the problem. Eventually, this increase in pressure can cause a penetration of the skin by the nail.
This is where things get really troublesome… once the nail has penetrated the skin the way is open for infection. It doesn’t take long for infection to take control because the sulcus is a pocket area that easily harbours debris’. Infection increases the swelling and inflammation in the area and perpetuates the problem even further!
What can be done to prevent?
Many attempts have been made to prevent ingrown toenails with conservative treatments like cutting a “V” in the front of the nail, filing the top of the nail, bracing the nail with complex contraptions that tension the nail upwards and even packing with cotton wool under the edges of the nail. In consideration of the way in which ingrown toenails develop, it is easy to understand why these methods have a very limited ability to prevent ingrown toenails.
The best method of preventing ingrown toenails is wearing appropriate footwear in an appropriate way. In other words, wearing shoes that have appropriate support to reduce friction and pressure of the digits against the wall of the shoe, wearing shoes that fit properly (aren’t too small OR too big) and shoes that have fastening (non-elastic) that is done up and undone every time the foot goes in and out of the shoe respectively.
Nb. If you are unsure of what constitutes a supportive, appropriately fitted shoe get in touch with us (02) 4323 9100 or look us up on social media! Otherwise stay tuned for our upcoming article on appropriate / supportive footwear.
“It’s too late for me… I already have an ingrown toenail” – What can be done to treat ingrown toenails?
Depending on how severe your ingrown toenail/s is/are there is really two main options of what needs to be done to fix it. If its just a little bit irritated and you can feel discomfort when you push down on the nail it can be as simple as trimming the nail appropriately and carefully clearing the side of the nail. If it’s a difficult to trim the nail because of inflammation or pain you will likely need to seek some help to fix the problem properly.
Appropriate nail cutting:
There is conjecture as to whether to cut the nail straight across or down the sides. Riverside Podiatry believes nature does certain things for specific purposes. If you have a look at your finger nails you will see they grow with a gentle curve which prevents the edges of the nails from catching (such as when they have been cut straight across), additionally they are not cut too far down the sides which may allow the skin to get accustomed to growing where the nail is supposed to grow and when the nail grows it pressures the skin. When was the last time you had an ingrown finger nail? It’s unlikely you ever have! (except maybe if you wear gloves everyday). Likewise, this is how the toenails should be trimmed and if you are wearing appropriate shoes in an appropriate way there is a very low likelihood of developing ingrown toenails.
Podiatrists are trained specialists in ingrown toenail management and here at Riverside podiatry we can generally remove the troublesome ingrown toenails PAIN FREE!! (without needles) yes, that’s right, Riverside Podiatry is ahead of the game in ingrown toenail management. If you would like the problem dealt with thoroughly and painlessly – contact our podiatrists today! Don’t try and deal with it yourself – If it’s causing discomfort when handling the nail leave it to the professionals – self-treatment often makes it more painful for the podiatrist to do their work.