Understanding Ingrown Toenails | Onychocryptosis

Ingrown Toenail Examples | Family Podiatry Centre | Best Foot Doctor Podiatrist DPM Clinic Singapore Malaysia

Ingrown toenails or onychocryptosis is a painful condition that occurs when the side of the nail pierces through the skin surrounding the nail, or the sulcus. This causes swelling and a painful infection. While mild cases only hurt while wearing shoes, severe cases can be painful to even the slightest touch of a bedsheet.

What causes Ingrown Toenails?

  • Direct trauma
  • Fungal Nail Infections
    • Fungal infections can cause nails to become misshapen and increase the risk of ingrown toenails
  • Poor hygiene
  • Using the wrong nail-cutting techniques
  • Ill-fitting shoes
    • Tight, pointy shoes place excessive pressure on the nails and increase the risk of ingrown toenails
    • Swelling feet may also have the same effect – pregnant women should account for this when choosing shoes

How not to treat ingrown toenails

Ingrown Toenails | Pedicure Went Wrong 2 | Family Podiatry Centre | Best Foot Doctor Podiatrist DPM Clinic Singapore Malaysia


For someone untrained in surgery, it is very difficult to find the root of the ingrown toenails, and cutting down the side of the nail to remove the ingrown portion will create a sharp nail spike instead, which causes an even worse infection. 

Some clinics or pharmacies may also try to sell you nail softeners, antibiotics or ointments. These do not work, although they may help with the secondary symptoms of ingrown toenails like pain. Antibiotics can help with the secondary infection caused by ingrown toenails, but they will not solve the root of the problem.


Pedicurist | Manicurist

Unsuccessful self-treatments may lead victims of ingrown toenails to visit a pedicurist. More “helpful” pedicurists may also discover ingrown toenails in their clients and try to remove them on their own, but this is usually done wrongly, leaving a painful nail spike (first picture above) which can lead to infection.

Pedicurists are not foot surgeons and do not have the proper surgical-grade, sterilized tools nor the skills to cut out the ingrown portions of ingrown toenails. Ingrown toenails should only be treated by trained foot doctors in order to avoid further complications.

Ingrown toenails can be unbearably painful. | Family Podiatry Centre | Best Foot Doctor Podiatrist DPM Clinic Singapore Malaysia

Best Ingrown Toenails Treatment

Conservative | Monthly Trimming

  • Preferred by patients who may not want to undergo surgery immediately
    • Pregnant women may opt for conservative treatment as they cannot take antibiotics etc.
    • Children may also opt for conservative treatment as they are too young for surgery
  • Also done as a test to see if the cause of the ingrown toenail is a recurring problem caused by an underlying issue (e.g fungal nail infection) or a one-off issue
    • If the ingrown toenails are caused by an underlying issue, that will have to be addressed first in order to cure the ingrown toenails
  • Must be done monthly, and takes less than a minute each time
  • Anesthetic is not used

Permanent | Surgery – Matrix Phenolization

  • Permanent cure, 99% successful
  • Removes ingrown portion of nail all the way to the root (matrix) to ensure that it does not regrow
  • Performed under local anesthesia and takes only 30 minutes, making it a quick and painless experience

Treatment Video

Who does it usually happen to?

Teenagers 13-18

  • Due to a high level of activity and poor hygiene


Young women 18-40

  • Ingrown toenails caused by overzealous pedicuring (improper nail-cutting techniques, excessive cleaning of sides of nail)
  • Pregnant women are also at risk of ingrown toenails due to swelling of feet 
  • Check out – Death by Pedicure – Robert Spalding


  • Office workers wearing shoes and socks all day putting them at risk of ingrown toenails – recently less due to lockdown

Fortunately, treating ingrown toenails is easy and safe. A common treatment we provide at Family Podiatry Centre is a partial nail avulsion utilizing matrix phenolisation – this procedure takes only 35 minutes and involves removing the damaged part of the nail root (the matrix) so that it never grows back again. This results in a beautifully reshaped nail that is about 3mm narrower in width than before.

Written by Mark B. Reyneker
Written by Mark B. Reyneker

Podiatrist 20 years of clinical experience. Practiced in South Africa, Malaysia, and Singapore. Pioneered CAD/CAM custom made orthotics in S.E Asia.

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