Toenails help to protect the sensitive tissues in our toes, but can cause severe pain if they cut into the toes. The feet endure a lot of stresses and strains with walking, running, wearing shoes, working and playing sport. Sometimes the whole nail or just a portion of it will grow into the skin and penetrate the skin's surface. This problem commonly occurs on the big toe, however, smaller toes can be affected.
There are a number or reasons why ingrown toenails occur:
The problem may be treated conservatively or surgically based upon initial assessment and subsequent prognosis of the nail. In terms of conservative treatment the podiatrist will instruct you on how to manage the nails in order to prevent recurrence of the ingrown toenails.
Surgical correction of an ingrown toenail is a very simple ‘walk-in walk-out’ one hour procedure and has a very high success rate. Nail surgery is indicated usually for those under the age of 60 or when conservative management fails. It is also needed in cases where abnormally curved, thickened, damaged or fungal infected nails are a problem. It involves removing an edge or the whole nail plate along the matrix. Once the matrix is removed the offending nail portion will not grow back again. The procedure itself is usually painless due to the administration of a local anaesthetic. Once the nail and matrix is improved a chemical is applied to ensure regrowth of the nail does not occur. (This chemical also helps to insure that pain following this procedure is minimal). If the side(s) of the nail is removed the skin will heal to give a normal looking nail that is only slightly narrower. If the whole nail is removed the skin of the nail bed toughens up so that the area is not left tender.