My Toenail is Thick and Painful, Can’t I Just Be Rid of It?

One of the most common problems we see in our practice is toenails that are thick and painful.  While some people have this issue with all their nails, others simply have one or two nails that are very thick and bothersome in shoes or with simple pressure.  These nails have become deformed as a result of either pressure from poorly fitting shoes, years of small injuries like toes being stepping on or stubbed, damage sustained while jogging, or damage incurred from a chronic fungus infection.  Eventually the nail root cells that grow nail become damaged, and permanently produce a nail that is thick, unsightly, causes pain with pressure, and/or is severely ingrown on one or both sides.  Unfortunately, once the nail becomes damaged the nail cannot recover and grow out normally ever again.  This is also often true in many cases of chronic nail fungus that it is assumed medication will treat, as once the fungus destroys the nail material the nail root cells often become damaged permanently as well.

So, the question at hand is how can these nails be treated?  There are medications that can be used to soften the nails, but these do not work on particularly thick nails, and the nails have to be treated for life.  A professional can grind the nail down periodically to thin it, but after a couple short months the thickness nearly always returns.  A very viable option is to simply remove the toenail under a local anesthetic, and kill the nail root cells with a simple chemical to keep the nail from returning.  Called a ‘phenol matrixectomy’, this relatively painless procedure gets rid of the problematic nail for good, and leaves one with normal skin where the nail was.  For cosmetic-minded females considering this procedure, the remaining nail bed skin can be polished just like the intact nail on the toe next to it, and no one is the wiser.  It is performed in the office in 15 minutes, and most people have a completely uneventful 2-3-week recovery period that requires no restriction form activity.  This procedure is ideal for those who have one or a few such nails that are a problem.  It is covered in nearly all cases by insurance, and nearly every patient who has it performed has told me they wish they had known this could be done years earlier.

If you have been struggling with a painful toenail for many years and want to stop the pain, give me a call and we can set you on the quick path to relief.

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