Dealing with an Ingrown Toenail
- Posted on: Aug 15 2017
Anyone? Bueller? Onychocryptosis? Paronychia?
OK, how about an ingrown toenail? Yeah, there are fancy medical terms for this relatively common problem with our toes, usually the big toe. But if you’ve had an ingrown toenail you know it hurts…a lot. We can fix your nail at the Foot & Ankle Specialty Group and get you past the dread of putting on closed shoes.
What is an ingrown toenail?
This may seem somewhat obvious due to the name, but when any portion of a toenail punctures the skin and begins to push into the skin as it grows, this can become an ingrown nail. There is no age limit for a person to develop an ingrown toenail, and they can be very painful.
Why do we even have toenails?
With the trouble they sometimes cause, you may wonder why we even have toenails. Don’t tell this to your toenails, but they don’t have any purpose for modern humans. So, why are they there? Well, we used to need the protection and added grip our then-thicker toenails provided when we were always climbing trees. Yeah, this may not sit well with certain, shall we say “evolution doubters,” but toenails are right in there with our tailbone and wisdom teeth on the uselessness scale.
If you doubt this to be, true, you can lose an entire toenail, and it doesn’t restrict movement in any way, or impede function, or increase chances of infection and the like.
What causes these pesky ingrown nails?
There are two general reasons why your toenail has decided to grow into your skin. The sharp edge that is growing into your skin could be due to trauma from an external force such as kicking a soccer ball and cracking the nail. Or it could be from poor nail cutting. When the nail is cut too short or at an angle, a sharp edge is left on the nail, and this edge can start cutting into the skin.
How do I know I have an ingrown nail?
The pain usually starts in the corner of the nail. As it gets going, it can first be a mild achy pain. But as the nail progresses into the skin, the pain will increase. There will be redness and swell around the nail, and an infection often starts.
Treating your ingrown toenail
For mild cases, soaking the toe in warm water and salts daily will help the nail come out of the skin as it grows. We may help elevate the nail out of the skin to aid its growing direction.
For more severe cases, we may need to remove either part or the entire toenail. In a partial nail avulsion, we’ll perform a quick 10-minute procedure. First, we numb the toe, and then the nail is lifted away from the nail bed and the nail root using specialized instruments. We then cut the nail away from the healthy nail, and it is removed from the root.
In a partial matrixectomy (just a 20-minute procedure), the procedure is similar to a partial avulsion, except the results are permanent. Once the nail is cut away from the healthy nail and removed down to the root, we then place a specialized acid mixture called Phenol on the root of the nail to kill the root cells. This stops the nail from growing in the area affected by chronic ingrown nails.
We also may do a total avulsion to remove the entire nail, leaving the root intact so that the nail regrows. Or we may do a total matrixectomy, where the entire nail is removed, and the root is killed.
You may think all of these procedures would involve a lot of pain. In actuality, patients do not experience any pain and are not restricted in their activities during the one-week healing period. The only pain comes if you do NOT have your ingrown toenail addressed.
Do you think you have an ingrown toenail? Call the team at Foot & Ankle Specialty Group, 310-651-2366, and let’s take a look.