Overgrown Toe Skin

Having overgrown toe skin can be very painful. The condition can be prevented, and there are ways to treat the condition including a common surgical procedure.

What is Overgrown Toe Skin?

Overgrown toe skin is a condition where the skin that surrounds one or more toes grows over one or both sides of a nail. This condition is often confused with another common condition of the toes called an ingrown toe nail. There is quite a difference in the two conditions. With an ingrown toe nail, the nail itself curves down and burrows into the skin on the sides or in front of the toe. With overgrown toe skin, the nail itself is not the problem. The skin is overlapping the nail and encasing it. The big toe on either foot is most often affected by overgrown toe skin.

What are the Symptoms of Overgrown Toe Skin?

The symptoms of overgrown toe skin vary from individual to individual. However, most of those who suffer from the condition will experience some or all of the following symptoms:

  • Redness around one or more toes
  • Swelling - This usually occurs on the sides of the affected toe or toes
  • Pain - The pain is usually minimal at first, but if the condition is allowed to progress, the pain can become very severe.
  • Pain in the toe when walking
  • Encasement of the toe nail by the surrounding skin
  • A throbbing or pulsating sensation within the toe and the surrounding area

The greatest complication, and most serious of the symptoms, is infection. Debris and dirt can became trapped in the folds of skin surrounding the nail. When an infection occurs as a result of overgrown toe skin, the skin will be exceptionally red. A discharge will often be present. This discharge often contains yellow pus.

Patients with overgrown toe skin are also susceptible to fungal infections of the nail and nail bed. If a fungal infection develops in the area, the nail will become yellow. Over time, the nail becomes thick, and this increases the pain of overgrown toe skin.

Causes of Overgrown Toe Skin

Podiatrists believe that the main cause of overgrown toe skin is from excessive weight being placed upon the toes for an extended period of time. Some people are required to stand and walk for long periods of time throughout the day as part of their work. Those who place stress on their feet on a regular basis such as runners and joggers can have the condition. The skin around the big toe especially can be pushed up and around the nail causing it to fold over the nail. Over time, the skin becomes red and sore which can ultimately lead to infection. Those who are overweight are especially susceptible to overgrown toe skin.

Another major cause of the condition is wearing shoes that do not fit properly. If the toes are continually pressed together in a shoe that is too tight, the skin on the sides of the toe can be pushed up around the nails and begin to overgrow around them. Shoes need to be wide enough so that the toes have room to move around freely.

Some people who have diabetes have problems with overgrown toe skin. Those with diabetes need to take extra care in making sure that their feet remain in a healthy condition.

Overgrown Toe Skin Treatments

There are two main types of treatment for overgrown toe skin. Both of these treatments involve surgical procedures. In one type of surgery, the patient has the portion of the nail removed that has been overgrown by the surrounding skin. This surgery is similar to that which is performed when a person has an ingrown toe nail. Sometimes, a podiatrist or physician will remove the entire nail. This is normally only done in extreme circumstances.

The other type of surgery that is performed to correct overgrown toe skin is known as the Vandenbos surgery. This is a procedure where the nail itself is left intact. The surrounding skin that has overgrown the nail is the target of this type of surgery. This is not a complicated surgical procedure, and it is usually performed in the physician's office.

In the Vandenbos surgery, the toe or toes to be operated on are completely numbed by a local anesthetic. The doctor then proceeds to remove the skin on both sides of the affected nail or nails. The operation usually takes less than half of an hour if only one of the nails is being operated on.

It will take a couple of weeks for the patient's skin to completely heal. The growth of the nail will not be affected, and there will be no cosmetic issues that affect the toe. The patient does not generally have any recurrence of the problem after the surgery is complete.

The Vandenbos surgery should only be performed on patients who do not have a nail condition. Patients that have fungus infections of the nails or curling nails are not good candidates for the procedure.

Preventing Overgrown Toe Skin

It is not always possible to completely prevent overgrown toe skin. However, there are some things that a patient can do to keep the condition from developing.

  • Patients should always wear shoes that have plenty of room in them. Tight shoes can cause a multitude of foot problems. High heeled shoes are a particular problem as they put excessive pressure on the area around the toes.
  • Patients should thoroughly wash and dry their feet on a daily basis. This will prevent any buildup of bacteria or fungus in the feet that can lead to infection should the skin around the toes begin to overgrow.
  • It's important to keep excessive weight off of the feet. Those who are overweight should make an attempt to lose weight. This will take a great load off of the feet and prevent many potential foot ailments.
  • Those who stand on their feet all day at work should try to take as many chances as possible throughout the day to get off their feet and elevate their feet.
  • Soaking the feet after being on them for a long period of time is beneficial.