How to treat ingrown toenails
Unless you have had first-hand experience of an ingrown toenail, you would not believe the pain and discomfort that something so seemingly trivial can cause. Ask any severe sufferer of this condition and they will tell you that the pain is excruciating, perhaps even the worst pain they have ever experienced.
An ingrown toenail is an extremely common condition that can effect anyone. Usually caused by pressure, ill-fitting shoes, growth deformation, fungal nails or incorrect trimming of the nails, the distal corners of the toenail curve and dig into the skin causing discomfort. If left untreated, the nail can pierce the skin resulting in small, sometimes undetected, open wounds that can lead to inflammation and infection. Without removing the section of offending nail and treating with antibiotics (if needed) the surrounding skin can swell, engulfing more of the nail and causing granulation (an overgrowing of skin). This is the bodies way of trying to protect the area however, it can lead to crippling pain, the digit may appear to have doubled in size and the infection may spread.
For years patients with Onychocryptosis (the medical term for ingrown toenails) faced the difficult decision of self-management and living with the debilitating pain or the rather grim alternative of nail surgery to remove a portion of the nail or in some cases the whole nail.
Nail removal involves uncomfortable injections in the toe to numb the area and reduce bleeding whilst the surgery is performed. The foot, with over 3000 nerve endings is an extremely sensitive part of our bodies so its no surprise that injections in the feet are rarely anticipated. Couple this with the already sensitive and painful toe, it’s easy to see why people shy away from seeking help for this condition.
Once the toe is numb, the podiatrist can then separate the nail from the nail bed and remove the ‘spike’ that causes pain, inflammation and often infection. The piece of nail which is removed, will be extracted from below the skin at the base of the nail to remove it in its entirety.
In many cases, an acidic solution will be applied to the matrix (nail root). This destroys the cells in the localised area with the intention that this portion of the nail will not regrow. Unfortunately, this method is not always successful and patients may experience future growth and the ingrown can reoccur.
In severe cases, where patients experience ingrown nails on both sides of the nail or where the nail has experienced trauma, the podiatrist may elect to remove a portion from both sides or the nail in its entirety. This results in a very narrow looking nail or in complete nail removals with matrix destruction, no nail at all. For some patients this result can be as disfiguring as the original condition and many will feel that they have no choice but to hide their feet. This isn’t normally a problem until summer arrives and it’s the sandal season.
Some patients may not be suitable or may be classed as extremely high risk for this invasive kind of surgery. Whilst all patients are treated as high risk during foot health treatment, some are more concerning than others, particularly patients that are diabetic, medicated with blood thinners or have other complicated medical conditions. Fortunately, we now have an innovative treatment for this condition that is not only quick and suitable for everyone but most importantly is pain free.
The Onyfix Nail Correction System is designed to bring ingrown and involuted nails back into a natural shape through normal growth. The system uses a hardened composite to create a ‘band’ at the proximal end of the nail (base of the nail) which encourages the nail to grow at the correct width without pain or tension.
Over time, as the nail grows, the band will move with the nail towards the free edge, maintaining the natural width as it grows. By 12 – 20 weeks, the nail will have grown (taking the band with it) significantly enough as to now sit approximately in the middle of the nail. At this point a second band should be placed at the base of the nail to retain the natural width. In severe, involuted nails a third band may need to be placed at approximately weeks 30 – 40.
At approximately month 12, the first band may need to be removed as it will likely be at the edge of the nail. The nails should still be cut and maintained regularly throughout this process. Removal of the bands is equally pain free and takes a matter of minutes as it is gently filed off. The nails can be painted with nail polish, however as the band is not completely flat it will not be completely invisible. Gel polish cannot be applied to the nail after Onyfix application as the two systems are not compatible and removal of gel may interfere with the product.
The application is a quick process that can be carried out in as little as 30 mins. There is no downtime and very little aftercare other than a recommendation to not immerse the foot in water for 24 hours. It is important to commit to completing the treatment in order to achieve results. The system cannot guarantee 100% correction, particularly where nails are severely involuted, however a noticeable improvement can be expected.
In rare cases this treatment may not be suitable for ingrown nails that present as flat and too wide for the nail bed. The system cannot correct overwide nails and in this circumstance a partial nail removal would be preferrable.
As this system is a specialist treatment which can only be carried out by trained podiatrists or foot health practitioners expect to pay around £50 for each application. On top of this, specialists may include an assessment fee or charges for additional treatment. The treatment is significantly cheaper than nail surgery (something which is more difficult to access via the NHS), with little to no risk of complications, pain or recovery time.
As the Onyfix Nail Correction System is a relatively new treatment alternative to nail removal surgery you may need to travel to a specialist that offers it. However, as the treatment only requires 2 – 3 visits in a 12 month period a journey is a small price to pay for the much needed relief this revolutionary treatment offers.