Ingrown toenails are probably not as common as you think. The most common cause of pain down the side of a toenail is a condition called onychophosis which many people mistake for an ingrown toenail. A true ingrown toenail is when a sharp edge or piece of the nail penetrates the skin to become “ingrown”. This typically becomes red and inflamed and runs of the risk of infection developing. Onychophosis is a callus or a corn that develops down the side of the nail from pressure between the nail and the skin. Typically the nail is curved and there is quite a lot of pressure there. Because of this pressure, the skin thickens up to protect itself, but becomes so thick it forms a painful callus or a corn. Both an ingrown nail and onychophosis cause pain down the side or edge of the nail. That pain is due to the pressure, but one is due to the nail penetrating the skin and the other is due to the pressure on the skin, so you can see why they may often be confused.
An ingrown toenail is treated by a podiatrist skillfully removing the piece of nail that has penetrated the skin. In the long term it may need a minor surgical procedure for a more permanent solution if the condition continues to occur. For an onychophosis, this is where the practical skills of a good podiatrist shine in being able to skillfully debride the callus and corn and file the nail away from the painful area. Like an ingrown nail if this becomes an ongoing problem, minor surgery can be used to remove the edge of the nail to prevent it from being a long term problem.
If you have any pain down the side of the nail, whether it be an ingrown toenail or an onychophosis, then come in an dsee us to discuss your options.