During winter time we don’t spend a lot of time looking at our feet, as they are usually bundled up in thick socks and warm shoes, but there are certain things we always need to pay attention to. One of those things is our toenails. Ingrown toenails occur when the toenail grows down into the skin, rather than outward as it’s supposed to. This condition is easily diagnosable since you can clearly see the skin growing over the nail. This may be accompanied by pain, redness, swelling, or even pus if infection is present.
Ingrown toenails occur on the big toe in nine out of ten cases, but other toes may be affected or even fingernails. Unfortunately, the majority of ingrown nails occur due to simple genetics. If you have larger-than-average toenails, but average size toes, this can lead to your nails growing down into the skin of your toe. People with particularly thick toenails or naturally curved nails may also be at higher risk of ingrown toenails. Although some ingrown nails may not be bothersome, secondary factors can exacerbate your condition to the point where you need to see a podiatrist.
READ MORE: Say Goodbye to Ingrown Toenails
One of the most common culprits of painful or infected ingrown toenails is improper nail cutting. Don’t cut your toenails too short, as this increases the chance they will grow into the skin. Nails should always be cut into a straight line, not a curve, to avoid edges progressing into the sides of your toe. Acute nail damage, such as stubbing your toe forcefully, can lead to misshapen nails that become ingrown. Ingrown nails may also develop if your toes are constantly squeezed together, either by tight shoes or conditions such as bunions that turn the toes toward each other.
Although cutting your toenail away from the skin might temporarily solve your problem, it will simply grow back the same way unless a surgical correction is made. Surgery is a scary word for most people, but fixing an ingrown toenail is a breeze and the procedure can actually be completed in a single office visit. First, a local anesthetic is applied, numbing the area so you remain blissfully ignorant to any feeling.
Next, the nail borders are removed; a fancy way of saying your nail is cut into a narrower shape and the folded skin is disconnected. In some cases, the entire toenail may be removed. Lastly, the nail matrix is chemically cauterized to eliminate the offending nail from growing back improperly. The matrix of your nail is the tissue it forms on and it is responsible for the length, size, and shape of the nail. The “cauterization” is actually just the application of a strong chemical that prevents the nail from growing back.
Almost all of our ingrown toenail treatments are done right in our office in a single visit (even if it’s your first visit). With a proper dressing and a loose (though protective!) shoe, most patients are able to resume normal activity within 24 hours, though extra care should be taken for several weeks while the toe heals. These procedures boast a 99% success rate with no ingrown toenail reoccurrence. Stop cutting away your painful ingrown nail and come see your podiatrist for a lasting solution. It’s really as simple as that.
READ MORE: Choosing Shoes to Avoid Foot Issues