Ingrown toenail or onychocryptosis is one of the most common causes of foot pain and infection. Recurring ingrown nails can now be easily and effectively treated permanently in the office with little discomfort and minimal if any down time.
The most common causes of ingrown nails are improper cutting of the nail, congenital nail deformity and aging. When a nail is improperly cut especially into the corners it allows the skin around the nail or ungual labia to rise up blocking the nail from growing out to the end of the toe. With time, the surrounding skin becomes inflamed from irritation of the nail. The nail pierces the skin allowing bacteria, causing an infection or paronychia.
Though many times cutting the nail back into the corner may give temporary relief of pain it actually makes the problem worse in the long run. Old wives’ tales to cure or prevent ingrown nails such as cutting a “V” in the top of the nail or packing cotton under the nail edge does not correct the problem. The nail that we actually see is a mirror image of the nail root or matrix that lies under the skin in front of the cuticle oreponychium.
If the nail root is deformed treatment at the end of the nail will not correct the problem.
Ingrown nails are routinely, simply and permanently treated in the office by removing the abnormal portion of nail, making it narrower and normal appearing. This procedure is done under local anesthetic and takes about 5 minutes. The key to permanent correction is the application of medication to the nail root once the abnormal portion of nail is removed. This procedure is referred to as a chemical matrixectomy or destruction of the nail root and is approximately 95% successful. Many patients take little or no medication after the procedure and return to work the same or next day.
It is best to have this procedure done before an infection is present. Untreated infected ingrown nails can lead to more serious problems other than pain such as a bone infection or osteomyelitis, long term antibiotics, and loss of the toe or amputation.