Ingrown toenails occur when the nail grows or curls down the side of the nail and a sharp corner (spicule) penetrates the surrounding skin. If it is not treated properly and promptly, it can cause pain, redness, swelling and infection.
Here are some myths that patients commonly associate with ingrown toenails and tips on how to actually fix the problem.
Myth 1: Antibiotic treatment will resolve the ingrown toenail
Antibiotics are drugs that can help to resolve bacterial infections. If the ingrown toenail is infected, then antibiotics might help to settle the infection. However, if the sharp spicule that is causing the infection is not removed then the pain and infection will persist and probably recur. Also, with antibiotic resistance on the rise, we should be more cautious about prescribing antibiotics and try to fix the problem properly.
Myth 2: Cutting a "V" into the nail will fix an ingrown toenail
This is an urban legend and has no basis in fact. Cutting a “V” at the end of the toenail will not fix the ingrown nail, and may very well cause other problems. If nothing else, the nail will catch on socks and sheets!
Myth 3: Cutting down the sides of my nails will ensure that I don't get ingrown toenails
If you cut down the sides of the nails yourself without the proper tools, you could be doing more harm than good. It is easy to leave a sharp point of the nail under the skin on the side of the nail where you can’t get to it. This will continue to grow and penetrate the skin, forming a wound. You should regularly trim the nails straight across and around the edges (always leaving a small border of nail visible) in order to prevent ingrowing toenails.
Myth 4: Ingrown toenails develop on the big toes only
It is true that ingrown nails most commonly occur on the big toes but they can also occur on any toes.
Myth 5: A pedicurist/nail bar can treat my ingrown toenails
A pedicurist might not have all the correct sterile instruments or training in order to be able to fix ingrown toenails. Pedicurists definitely don’t have the skills to treat wounds and infections. Podiatrists, on the other hand, are trained health professionals who can help fix your ingrown nails quickly, painlessly and permanently.
Myth 6: Ingrown toenails only happen to people with funny shaped nails
Ingrown nails can be caused by many things, including:
A genetic predisposition
Injury to the toenail
Improper nail cutting technique
Tight or ill-fitting shoes
Having excessively sweaty feet
Secondary to bacterial or fungal infections
As a side effect of taking certain medicines
Myth 7: The only way to treat an ingrown toenail is to have the whole nail removed
Removing the whole nail (or total nail avulsion) is not the first option to treat ingrown toenails and in fact is only rarely necessary. Podiatrists can often remove the offending part of the ingrown nail on the spot, or perform a minor surgical procedure to fix the problem either as a once-off procedure or permanently if necessary.
So how do we fix ingrown toenails?
The sharp spicule that is growing into the skin will need to be removed in order to resolve this issue. Treatment will depend on the severity of the ingrown nail and whether it is currently infected. Your Podiatrist will have all the sterile equipment necessary to remove the nail spicule in a safe and sterile manner.
If the ingrown toenail started recently then your Podiatrist may be able to remove the spicule with a non-invasive technique with or without local anaesthetic. We provide follow up care and dressing advice too.
If the ingrown toenail is more severe or an infection is present then we can perform a minor surgical procedure with the use of local anaesthetic to remove the piece of the nail that is growing into your skin. This procedure can be permanent and the nail will continue to grow again and look normal after it has healed.
We have solutions to help if you are anxious about having your ingrown nail treated, and we also offer surgical treatment under general anaesthetic at a local hospital if you prefer and that is a recommended option.
Questions? Get in touch today to find out more.