What Causes Ingrown Toenails?
There are a variety of factors that can contribute to the growth of an ingrown toenail. The most common causes of ingrown toenails include:
- Picking or tearing the nails
- Poorly cutting toenails (nails should be cut straight across and not along the sides)
- Wearing narrow or tight shoes that compress the toes
- Trauma to the nail (think stubbing your toe)
- Certain sports or activities (ballet, kickboxing, soccer)
- Nails growing too wide or curved
- Genetic predisposition
- Poor foot hygiene
- Existing bacterial or fungal toenail infections
How Does Toenail Bracing Work?
Toenail bracing provides a pain-free solution to ingrown toenails. The bracing method avoids the need for toenail surgical intervention, requires no anaesthetics, comes with a short recovery period and offers immediate pain reduction. As a result, those with toenail bracing can resume daily and sporting activities relatively quickly.
Depending on the condition of the nail and the severity of the abnormalities in shape, there are three different types of bracing systems used on ingrown toenails. Once the correct bracing system is chosen, it is painlessly applied to the ingrown toenail. At 4–6-week intervals, the brace may be adjusted or replaced. When the ingrown toenail has been treated, the brace will be removed. Occasionally, we apply or recommend a retainer brace for a further 3-6 months to maintain the nail growth. The entire treatment typically takes 6-12 months, depending on the condition and severity of the ingrown toenail.
How Can I Avoid Ingrown Toenail Problems?
There are several ways in which you can prevent the growth of an ingrown toenail. For starters, you should be taking care of your toenails the same way you look after your fingernails – that means trimming them regularly and keeping them at moderate length. Here are some other tips that can help to prevent ingrown toenails:
- Trimming your toenails straight across and not curving your nails or cutting them too short
- Keeping toenails at a moderate length – they should be even with the tips of your toes!
- Wear shoes that fit properly. Avoid narrow, tight and uncomfortable footwear that put pressure on your toes
- Wear socks that fit correctly – you should be able to wiggle your toes easily in your socks and shoes
- Avoid trauma to the toe area
- Keep your feet clean and dry
Who Should Consider a Nail Brace?
We tend to recommend toenail bracing as an effective treatment for anyone with an ingrown toenail. The treatment is extremely convenient, effective and efficient when compared to surgical alternatives.
When compared to ingrown toenail procedures, bracing is the more conservative option. Great for kids or anyone that does not want to undergo an operation, bracing is also more suitable for those with some medical conditions such as peripheral vascular disease.
However, nail bracing is not recommended for those who have to wear specific shoes or undertake specific activities. We won’t recommend nail bracing if you:
- Will be wearing pointed high heels or ballet flats during treatment
- Have a fungal infection that will impact the strength or integrity of the nail
- Play sports where you kick the ball, such as soccer and AFL
Will Medicare Cover Ingrown Nail Treatment in Sydney?
Medicare may cover some of the costs in some circumstances. If you qualify for an Enhanced Primary Care (EPC) program through your GP, a portion of the costs may be covered by Medicare (up to a maximum of $264.75 per year).
Will Private Health Insurance Cover Toenail Bracing Treatment?
That depends on your private health insurance company and policy – there are a number of health funds in Australia that provide rebates for toenail bracing. It’s worth checking with your fund if you’re covered before you come in.