Addressing Ingrown Toe Nails: Wives Tales and Wise Tales
It doesn’t take much. One small nail spike or pressure from callus building within the sulci of the toe and BOOM, there is a good chance you will be off your feet…or at least in thongs. The ingrown toe nail has been a pressing issue for centuries – falling those in the wars, benching those in sports, homing the socialites and keeping kids from school.
A number of wife’s tales have developed over this time to try and combat the pesky issue however, many have offer little more than temporary relief to the sufferer.
In todays article we look at some of the causes of ingrown toe nails, the fallacies associated with them and what can really be done to address the complaint.
An ingrown toe nail is commonly recognized as a slither of nail which has forced itself into the healthy skin of the toe, promoting irritation and pain. Not all ingrown nails have an associated infection and not all are directly correlated to a misshapen nail, as pathological skin or pressure may be a contributing factor.
Ingrown toe nails associated directly with a misshapen or poorly trimmed nail will typically have a sliver of missed nail within the sulci which grows in a forward direction, at a slow rate into healthy skin. The nail pierces the skin causing pain and irritation. In some causes due to a now open wound one the toe, a local infection may arise.
In other cases increased external pressures may be the cause of an ingrown toe nail. The type of footwear which is worn, although it may not seem like it is causing pressure, will often place a tiny amount of compression upon the larger toes, directing the skin of the sulci into the nail and causing pain. With the increased compression, especially over time, pathological tissue can build within the sulci narrowing the space in which the nail would usually grow through.
A number of old wives’ tales have surfaced for the management of ingrown toe nails; some can be successful others are full of garbage. Here are just a few which you may come across in your travels.
- Cut a wedge in the middle of the nail – the theory here is the nail will curve to have the wedge narrow pulling the ingrown nail away from the affected area. In truth the nail will continue to grow straight and no relief will be felt.
- Soak in salt water/EPSOM salts – this has so merit for pain relief but not so much for relief of infection or the embedded irritant which is causing the pain. The heat will allow the tissues to expand taking a small amount of pressure from where the nail is embedding itself.
- Pedicure – most pedicures places these day will use metal tools, which are often not appropriately sterilized. As a result, many infections can actually begin as a result of attending one of these practices.
- Retraining the Nail – The theory runs that if you are able to guide the nail past the skin it will be retrained to continue to do so for evermore. More often than not the nail will grow past the skin for that small amount of time, after that or after the next nail trim you will be back to square-one.
There are a number of ways a podiatrist can help in these situations. The first is removal of the nail spike (if possible) with sterilized instruments and education on appropriate footwear while you are currently suffering from this condition.
The second and more invasive procedure is a partial nail matrix resection which involves the use of a local anaesthetic to numb the toe and removing the nail spike if it is too painful or too deep to remove appropriately. The next step is to cauterize the nail matrix to stop nail regrowth.
The end result is a slightly narrower nail but less a lot less pain.
Until Next Time,
Director/ Chief Editor