An ingrown nail is where the nail grows into the toe. They usually occur on the big toe but you can get them on any toe. It is a common problem and can be painful.
You can help to ease the pain yourself, if the toe is not infected, by soaking your foot in warm, salty water (for around 3-5 minutes). This helps to soften the skin and reduces the risk of infection. Wearing wide, comfortable shoes or sandals can help and, if you are able to, take paracetamol or ibuprofen to ease the pain. You should not cut or pick at the nail or wear tight-fitting footwear.
An ingrown toenail can become infected. Signs of infection are; a red, hot, swollen toe, pus coming from the affected area, feeling hot or shivery, or an unpleasant odour from the toe. Should you get one or more of these symptoms you should seek advice from a Podiatrist, pharmacist, GP, or an urgent treatment centre.
Many podiatrists can issue certain antibiotics if the toe is infected and can help to make the toe more comfortable in the short term. If the problem is ongoing nail surgery is an option. A podiatrist is able to perform this surgery and will discuss the best treatment plan for you. This may involve removal of the side/s of the nail or taking the nail off entirely. You will have time to process the treatment plan prior to the surgery date. On the day of surgery, it is advisable to eat and drink as normal. A local anaesthetic is used to numb the toe. Local anaesthetic blocks any feeling of sharpness or pain, however, you will be able to feel the podiatrist touching and moving your toe and you will feel the toe being sanitized before surgery commences. The podiatrist will make sure you are comfortable and the toe is numb before they begin the surgery. A tight band will be placed around the toe to prevent blood flow while the surgery is performed. This is usually on for around 8-12 minutes. A chemical may be used on the nail bed to prevent the nail from growing back. A large bandage will be placed on your toe after surgery which can be replaced with a smaller dressing 24 hours later. You will need to bathe your foot in salt water once a day, for 3-5 minutes, recommended after a shower, and put a fresh dressing on until the toe is healed. It is not advisable to leave the toe to 'air' as bacteria may get into the wound and cause infection.
The podiatrist will see you back in the clinic 1 week and 6 weeks post-surgery to ensure the wound is healing. If the podiatrist feels you need to be seen sooner, they will adjust the treatment plan accordingly. Most nail surgery clients heal within 5-6 weeks, however, the pain relief is very often instant. Clients often wish they had undergone nail surgery sooner rather than delay.