Ingrown toenails are common in people of all ages. Some people are born with nail shapes that tend to be ingrown, while others develop ingrown nails due to damage at the nail root cells that comes from years of stubbing the toe, dropping objects on it, or wearing tight shoes. An ingrown toenail essentially curls into the skin alongside the nail, instead of lying flat. It often does not cause any pain until the skin alongside the nail becomes inflamed. This can occur during a toe injury, wearing a particularly tight pair of shoes, or cutting the nail back too short and taking some of the skin with it. Once the skin becomes inflamed, it can swell, trap bacteria, become infected, or simply become painful.
Ingrown toenails, contrary to popular belief, are not caused by cutting the nail improperly. The shape of the nail at the end of the toe has no influence on the growth of the nail from the base of the nail. But, as discussed above, cutting an already ingrown nail too short and catching some of the skin can result in a previously non-painful ingrown becoming painful.
Ingrown toenails are often initially treated at home or in a family doctor’s office by trimming back the ingrown border, soaking the toe, and sometimes using oral antibiotics to treat the infection. Unfortunately, this does not address the underlying ingrowth of the nail, and the symptoms return later. A more permanent way to address this problem is a simple 10-minute procedure in our office that is performed under a local numbing agent, in which the ingrown side of the nail is removed and treatment is performed on the nail root cells to keep them from growing nail against the skin again. Healing is usually quick and without pain. Our podiatrists have each performed thousands of these procedures, and have a great success rate.