Ingrown Toenail
causes and cures

The definition of an ingrown toenail is when the toenail (usually the toenail of the big toe) has curved around at the side of the nail and starts to grow down and into the sides of the toe.

Chiropodist working on an ingrown toenail

As the nail grows it gradually digs in to the skin of the toe causing a lot of pain and inflammation.

If it is left untreated it can cause severe toe pain when walking, and this in turn makes the bearer of the ingrown nail to try and walk in an un-natural way, trying to avoid the pressure the nail applies on the toe and so avoiding the pain.

This un-natural way of walking can lead to other related problems with the ankles, knees, hips and back.

In some severe cases a bad ingrown toenail can cause the skin to break which means walking is even more difficult due to the open wound.

It will also leave the toe open to a fungal attack, like athletes foot or worse.

Other severe cases can lead to the bearer requiring the toenail to be surgically removed.

Not a pleasant situation, although nowadays the procedure or operation is relatively free of pain, it does take some time for the new nail to grow over the exposed part of the nail bed but until then the toe has to be protected and can be a little sore at times.

In many cases ingrown toenail treatment can easily be performed at home, however, it is always wise to seek the advice of a professional.

A Chiropodist or a Podiatrist both specialize in the treatment of toenail or foot disorders and can act on or give advice on both treatment and prevention to assure the development of healthy toenails

The causes of an ingrown nail vary, sometimes it is through hereditary (a deformation of the nail passed down through the family genetically) but usually it is from the effects of tight or ill fitting shoes.

Another main contributor to the problem is incorrect toenail cutting techniques, it can also be as a result of some trauma to the toe, ie bashing the toe on something hard.

Toenails should always be cut or trimmed straight across the top of the nail and not down the sides.

You can avoid a toenail that grows in by cutting the nails correctly and by using preventative measures like selecting and using a better type of footwear and foot care.

If the ingrown toenail condition runs in the family, ie you have inherited that type of toenail then of course it will grow inwards naturally.

This leaves the bearer with the option of 'correctional growth procedures' this is explained later in the page.

If it is too badly ingrown or deformed then the bearer may need

toenail surgery to remove the nail completely from the toe and basically 'start from new'.

The nail will grow back and during that time it can be trained to grow straight without curling or turning inwards.

Leaving a good, straight growing toenail.

However, due to new procedures and materials it is no longer necessary to remove the toenail completely just because of an ingrown toe nail, it does take some months of time, patience and skill but the end result will be a 'Cured' ingrown toenail.

The procedures are well known and practiced by the specialists (Chiropodist or Podiatrist).

It involves gradual treatment over some months whereby the ingrowing part of the toenail is gradually removed.

I can speak of my personal experience on this procedure as i had it done several months ago and ended up with a 'cured' ingrown toenail.

My Chiropodist partner has been specially trained in this procedure and can perform the treatment relatively pain free.

It is done gradually so as to allow the soft tissue that has recently been exposed to harden a little, in preparation for the next session.

Slowly the ingrown nail is trimmed back using a special scalpel, toenail scissors,an ingrown nail lifting/scraping tool and some small tweezers.

The soft dead tissue is removed from under the nail and the nail cut to the proper shape without damage to the skin under the nail.

A steady well trained hand is needed when using the scalpel in order to release the ingrown nail from the rest of the nail and the skin that holds it.

One must also to be aware of other possible problems that may be encountered during the treatment like 'corns' etc.

Once the ingrown part of the nail is removed and the recently exposed soft tissue of the skin has had time to harden a little, the Chiropodist will then use a specially designed, high quality steel 'frame' to place around the toenail

Podiatrist attaching wire frame

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to ensure that as the nail grows, it will grow straight without turning back in towards the toe.

This kind of practice is commonly used by Dental technicians to train the teeth to grow straight and in the right direction. In dental terms it is called a 'Brace'. The toenail generally takes about 10 months to grow from the base to the tip of the nail so the treatment to cure or straighten a nail will take some time and patience.

Treatment of the nail can be done at home if the condition is not too bad, or by a Chiropodist who will ensure the correct treatment.

Questions have been asked if a Pedicurist can provide this type of treatment, the simple answer is that a Pedicure involves just the trimming and decoration of a toenail and not the corrective surgery needed for the cure of an ingrown toenail.

In most cases Pedicurists are not schooled or trained in the art and skill of Chiropody or Podiatry.

Please be aware that if a toenail causes pain then the pain may not be from the ingrowing nail, it could be from a corn which has grown under that part of the nail.

Correct diagnosis is always required before any home treatment and this can only be given by a specialist Chiropodist or Podiatrist.

People with Diabetes or people with blood circulation problems are strongly advised to seek advice on the treatment of ingrown nails from a Diabetes trained Chiropodist or Podiatrist or their Doctor.

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