Signs Your Ingrown Toenail Needs Help From Your Podiatrist

If you consider ingrown toenails to be the most debilitatingly painful problem given that it involves such a seemingly small nail, you’re not alone. These are the exact same thoughts shared by most people who come into our ingrown toenail clinic to have their ingrown nails professionally cared for – and often to get rid of them for good. But how do you know if your ingrown nail is fine to manage at home, or if you should come in for professional treatment? 

Ingrown Toenail: The Basics

First thing first: an ingrown toenail occurs when the edge of a toenail grows into the surrounding skin rather than over it. Think of a small but sharp dagger piercing through healthy skin and staying embedded there – it’s actually very similar! This can result in pain, redness, swelling, and potential infection. Ingrown toenails most commonly affect the big toe, but any toe can be affected.

Identifying An Ingrown Toenail

To spot an ingrown toenail, look for:

  • Pain and discomfort: one of the earliest signs is tenderness or pain along the edge of the affected toenail. Ingrown toenails can also affect both edges of the same toenail.
  • Redness and swelling: the skin around the ingrown toenail may become red, swollen, and painful to the touch.
  • Inflammation: as your ingrown toenail grows deeper into the surrounding skin, you may notice the surrounding area become red and inflamed. Sometimes, there may be pus or clear fluid leaking from the area, which may also be a sign of infection.
  • Difficulty wearing shoes: ingrown toenails can make wearing shoes uncomfortable, and pressure from footwear may worsen the condition.
  • Overlapping skin: you may see the edge of the nail curling into the surrounding skin or observe overlapping of the skin onto the nail.

Home Care For Mild Cases

If your ingrown toenail is mild, you may try managing your symptoms at home by:

  • Soaking your feet in warm, soapy water for 15-20 minutes, 2-3 times a day. This can help soften the nail and reduce inflammation.
  • After soaking, use a clean, disinfected tool, such as a dental floss pick, to gently lift the ingrown edge of the nail away from the skin. Do not force it. This should be easy if the ingrown nail is mild so that it is only pressing against the side of the skin as opposed to already growing deep inside. If the nail has already significantly pierced into the skin, it’s time to see a podiatrist. 
  • Continue to keep the area clean and dry, avoiding tight footwear that puts pressure on the toe.
  • You can try to place a sterile bandage or a piece of cotton under the lifted nail edge to encourage it to grow above the skin. Again, this will not be suitable if your nail has already notably pierced into the skin.

When To Get Help For Your Ingrown Nail

While home care can help with mild cases, you should consult a podiatrist if you experience the following:

  • If ingrown toenails repeatedly affect the same toenail, a professional evaluation is essential to address the root cause.
  • If there are signs of infection, such as increasing redness, pus, or discharge, it’s crucial to book in with your podiatrist
  • Those with diabetes or circulation problems should not attempt self-treatment for ingrown toenails. These conditions can lead to complications and delayed wound healing.
  • A painful abscess (collection of pus) or the presence of a draining sinus warrants immediate attention.
  • If your symptoms worsen or fail to improve within a few days of home care, consult a podiatrist.

Final Tip

Ingrown toenails can be simple for a health professional to manage – but only if they have the right tools, experience and knowledge. As a clinic that sees ingrown toenails day in and day out, we have refined our protocols and processes to ensure you get the very best care for your ingrown nail every time.

Each person’s treatment plan is uniquely tailored to their symptoms and circumstances to help you get the best long-term results. Our podiatrists take the time to discuss every step of the process, alongside all of your treatment options, and are here to help you or your child have the very best experience with their toenail treatment. We’re based in Remuera, in the One Health medical building, close to Newmarket. Call us on 09 523 2333 or book online here.

Ingrown Toenails: Why it’s time to throw out the home remedies!

We have the pleasure of seeing and treating a lot of ingrown toenails. That’s not sarcastic at all – successfully treating ingrown toenails provides an immense amount of relief to suffering patients and using our skills to do this successfully is something we’re very proud of. There’s a common theme to many of the first visits we have with our patients, however, that we thought we’d shed some light on in case you happen to find yourself in this boat too. This theme is the I-googled-it-so-it-must-work home remedies for ingrown toenails. Now, don’t get us wrong. Some of the strategies you try may well alleviate your pain and have you feeling much better. There’s almost always a catch though: It’s temporary.

Repeated ingrown toenail occurrence

The unfortunate truth is that if you’ve suffered from the terrible pains of ingrown toenails more than once, the reality is that you’re almost definitely going to suffer from them again. One-off ingrown toenails absolutely do occur, but the cause is usually a particular pair of tight shoes that push the nail into the skin and they don’t tend to occur again after you’ve stopped wearing them. Repetitive ingrown toenails are the best indicator that there’s something going on, that the nail has now started growing in an abnormal way that ends up penetrating the skin, and that it’s going to continue to happen.

So, why advise against home remedies?

The first reason is that without knowing exactly what you’re doing, you could be further encouraging the nail to continue to grow in a way that will cause you a tremendous amount of pain. Take the way your nail is cut, for example. If you think that cutting down into the corner and removing the piece of nail will discourage it from growing there again – the reality is the exact opposite. Curving down and removing that painful nail edge will likely encourage the nail to keep curving a growing down – unless you know what you’re doing and understand the characteristics of nail growth. The second reason is that as health professionals, we don’t want you to suffer with ongoing pain. Experiencing pain every 3 months from an ingrown toenail isn’t a great solution in our opinion, and especially not when you can have a one-time permanent procedure that will have you saying goodbye to ingrown toenails for good.

So, what is this procedure?

The procedure we’re talking about is called a partial nail avulsion (PNA). It involves removing a small part of the nail (the part that causes you pain!) and applying a chemical that will stop that small portion of nail from growing back and continuing to cause you grief, over and over again. We love this procedure because:
  • It’s done simply and effectively in-clinic
  • It’s completed in 60 minutes (with the procedure time typically around 20 minutes)
  • It’s performed under local anaesthetic so is pain-free
  • You do not need to take any additional time off work/school following the procedure & can go home immediately
  • You don’t need any special boots or braces while the toe heals
  • The procedure causes very little post-procedure discomfort
  • We dress your toe, provide you with a take-home dressing pack & re-dressing instructions
  • We monitor your progress to ensure it’s healing well
While we perform conservative one-off care for first-time ingrown toenails or those with a definitive cause that is not likely to recur, the PNA is our best recommendation for those that are repetitively putting up with and suffering from ingrown toenails. We have tremendous success with the procedure and have prevented hundreds of patients from continuing to regularly suffer. Our team are experts when it comes to ingrown toenails and we love seeing the difference that having this procedure makes in the lives of our patients. For more information about the PNA procedure, click here. To book an appointment, you can give us a call on 09 523 2333 or book online.