Few things in life are more painful than an ingrowing toenail. Your big toe is sensitive with a lot of nerve endings and having something jabbing into it is never pleasant. Having someone step on your toe by accident can be excruciating.
Whether simply impeding you in everyday life or stopping you from undertaking exercises like sporting activities, an ingrowing toenail is simply not something you can ignore. Not only can it cause pain and soreness, but it can often get infected too.
Getting ingrowing toenail treatment is, therefore, essential. The question is simply what you need to have done. Depending on its severity, the answer will vary to a large extent.
Some things can be done at the outset, like wearing wide shoes that do not compress your toes, cutting your nails straight across, or even inserting a cotton bud under the nail to stop it digging into your toe.
Sometimes a podiatrist can help by trimming away the edges of the nail that are starting to dig into the toe. But often the ingrowth is so severe that it needs to be tackled using surgery under a local anaesthetic. This is delivered by two injections, one into either side of the upper toe, so you won’t feel a thing.
This can be done by either partial or total nail avulsion, which means removing some of the nail and then preventing it from growing back by using a substance called phenol to burn out the root of the nail, so it cannot grow back.
In the case of a partial nail avulsion, you will simply end up with a narrower nail, which will not only spare you the immediate problem but will mitigate against it recurring, since there will be less opportunity for things like tight footwear to cause the problem.
Should you have a total avulsion, the entire nail will have gone. This is a more drastic operation and it will mean phenol being used more to destroy all your nail roots. This is commonly done when you have a problem with the nail ingrowing on both sides of your toe.
Luckily, you can manage perfectly well without a toenail as the skin will harden and the advantage of this is that there is no chance of having the problem again, as long as the phenol has been properly applied.
After the surgery, you will have a sterile dressing and may need to sit or lie with your foot raised to limit bleeding for a couple of days. On occasions, antibiotics or bathing in salt water may be necessary to prevent infection.
Aftercare will also include getting it checked up to ensure it is healing correctly. It may all look a bit red and sore at first with a bit of blood, but you will soon see the difference as it heals up, especially in the parts of the toe that no longer have the nail digging in.
You may have to wait a couple of days before you can do anything particularly strenuous – you won’t be playing football for a while – but while it can be a bit daunting to have the procedure done, especially if you hate injections, you will be very glad you did afterwards.