Ingrown toenails - causes and management

Apr 13, 2020

Ingrown toenails are easily one of the most common foot health issues we see at Dan Everson Podiatry.

Primarily affecting the big toes, an ingrown toenail is when the side of the nail pierces into the skin causing pain, inflammation and in many cases infection.

There are numerous causes for ingrown toenails such as: 

  • Genetic Predisposition (involuted/curved shaped nails)
  • Trauma (stubbing or kicking toe) causing the nail to chip or push into sulcus
  • Inadequate cutting of the nails where the side of the nails is not cut smooth
  • Footwear which is too narrow, causing pressure on the side of the nails
  • Poor foot hygiene

Management

If treated early, ingrown toenails can be easily managed however when left untreated infection can be difficult to shift. Treatment involves removing the edge of nail which has penetrated the skin. It is important to keep the toe clean after the nail is cleared to prevent or eliminate any infection. This is done by performing daily salt water soaks and applying antiseptic ointment (e.g. betadine) with a light dressing until it resolves. If there is infection which does not clear after the nail is cleared, antibiotics maybe required from your general practitioner.

For reoccurring or chronic ingrown toenails, where the above causes cannot be avoided, surgery can be performed on the area. This procedure is a highly effective treatment which involves permanently removing the side of the problematic nail. Surgery contraindications include pregnant or breastfeeding women and people with poor peripheral circulation.

If you do suspect you or a family member have an ingrown toenail, it is best to see one of our Podiatrists so it can be treated promptly.