Back at School and Work with Painful Toes

Back at School and Work with Painful Toes


If you’ve noticed any areas of redness or swelling on your toes that makes you or anyone in your family wince in pain if touched, there’s a good chance that there’s an ingrown toenail about.

With the school year back in action and our kids going from spending days with bare feet to wearing closed in shoes every day for school, it’s a prime time for ingrown toenails to develop. But it’s not just kids that are at risk – ingrown toenails can cause immense pain for anyone at any age. Whether you’ve come back to work with nice (but tight) footwear, back on your feet for long hours, or you’ve just let your toenails grow without thinking about them, ingrown toenails can wreak havoc and cause you a tremendous amount of pain.

So, what is an ingrown toenail?

Having an ingrown toenail means that part of your nail has grown down into the surrounding skin, piercing it. As with anything that pierces and gets into the skin, it’s very painful! In most cases, its that the nail has grown in the wrong direction (down instead of out), but it could also be that the skin around the nails has thickened and got in the way of normal nail growth, so the nail has grown into it.

What are the signs and symptoms?

Ingrown toenails often occur on the big toes, though they can affect any toe. One or both sides of the toenail can grow in. Ingrown toenails don’t typically ‘go away on their own’ because for symptoms to settle, the ingrown piece of nail must be removed so that the cut (where it has pierced) can close and heal. Symptoms include:

  • Pain on touch
  • Redness
  • Swelling
  • Yellow discharge if infection is present
How are ingrown toenails caused?

Ingrown toenails can be caused by

  • The way the nails are cut
  • ‘Picking off’ nails or biting them
  • Tight footwear
  • Genetic factors

The most common of these is the way the nails are cut. Toenails should be cut in a clean, straight line across the nails. When nails edges are curved, this can encourage them to grow out to the sides instead of straight out. When nails are picked off or bitten, frayed edges and small spikes can be left on the edge of the nail. As the nail grows, the small sharp edges often get into the skin and become an ingrown toenail and the cause of your pain. Tight footwear can also cause ingrown toenails because these shoes push the skin against the nails and encourage them to press in.

What can be done for ingrown toenails?

The first thing that needs to be done is for the ingrown nail edge to be removed. The team at Sole Motion Podiatry have the right tools to remove ingrown toenails easily and simply, and this can be done with or without anaesthetic, depending on the severity of the problem. Once the offending nail edge is removed, the area can settle and heal, hence relieving the pain. If your ingrown toenail was infected, this should allow the infection to be cleared by the body. You may be advised to have a course of antibiotics.

If you have diabetes, nerve damage or poor circulation, you should never attempt to treat ingrown toenails at home. This is because an infection is a serious concern for you, and without the right tools and methods, further complications can develop.

If the ingrown toenail is a one-off, you should see the nail grow out normally and clearly without problems. If you are prone to ingrown toenails or it recurs, you may wish to permanently treat the ingrown toenails through a minor procedure called a Partial Nail Avulsion (PNA).

Permanently treating ingrown toenails – Partial Nail Avulsion (PNA)

A PNA is a minor procedure where the offending nail edge is permanently removed. Don’t worry – only a small section of the nail is removed (the part that grows down the side and causes you pain!), so your nail won’t look abnormal or short – you’ll just have a very smooth nail edge that doesn’t curve into the skin. It’s done in our clinic by the Sole Motion team. It’s all done under local anaesthetic so you won’t feel a thing. Once the section of nail is removed, we use a chemical to destroy the nail-growing cells at the very edge of the nail, so the offending edge doesn’t come back. The rest of your nail should grow completely normally.

For more information on ingrown toenails, partial nail avulsions or anything else to do with your families feet and legs, get in touch! Our awesome team are committed to delivering clinical excellence and the best outcomes across all areas of Podiatry. Whether you’re at school, work, have a new family or are seeing out your retirement, we’d love to help you too. You can give us a call at 1300-FX-FEET

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