Ingrown toe nail – what is it?
An ingrown toe nail can be really painful and happens when a splinter of nail penetrates the skin, usually at the front corner of the toe nail, this allows bacteria to get in causing an infection. The toe gets inflamed, swells up, goes red, maybe hot and any shoe pressure on it has you going “ow!” pretty quickly.
How did I get one?
You might be wondering how it happened. I see lots of ingrown toe nails and its usually one of two things that causes it.
1) The nail has been picked or ‘peeled’ at the edge and this has left a sharp spike of nail at the side that dig into the flesh like a splinter (teenagers are notorious for doing this rather than cutting their nails properly)
2) The nail has been cut too short – this allows shoe pressure to compress the soft pulpy flesh of the toe against the corner or edge of the nail and again pressing into and penetrating the skin.
There can be other causes like an injury, stubbing the toe etc, but those top two reasons are the most common.
How can you fix my ingrown toe nail?
Sometimes (if we are lucky) using a very fine pair of nail nippers I can remove the nail spike by cutting the nail on a slight angle and enable the nail to grow out to the edge of the toe. I’ll help you understand how to cut your toe nails in a way that avoids it happening again in the future.
Other times we are not so lucky and to fix it needs ingrown toe nail surgery to solve the problem and get you comfortable again. This is a small operation where the part of the nail that’s causing the problem is permanently removed; we (podiatrists) do this using a local anaesthetic to numb your toe first. We stop that part of the nail growing again by applying a special chemical called phenol, after the wound heals, you end up with normal looking a narrower toe nail which is much less likely to in grow again. (if you cut your toe nails properly)
But that sounds a bit drastic, can’t I just take antibiotics?
Taking antibiotics will temporarily dampen down the infection but to fix the problem the splinter of nail needs to be removed. See this post.
Can’t I get this done on the NHS?
You can self refer to the local NHS Podiatry service if you have an ingrown toe nail using the form on their website. I’m not sure what the waiting time to be seen is at the moment, people come to see me if the convenience of getting it sorted sooner rather than later is a priority to them.