What Are Pincer Nails?

C. Holder
C. Holder
Pincer nails may occur as a result of ill-fitting shoes.
Pincer nails may occur as a result of ill-fitting shoes.

Pincer nails, also called omega nails, are a form of ingrown fingernails or toenails. The sides of the nail grow inward into the flesh, creating extreme pressure and pain, and the middle of the nail itself curves upward, forming a tent-like appearance on the finger or toe. The possible causes of pincer nails are many, but they usually are caused by ill-fitting shoes or bad cutting and filing of the fingernails or toenails. They also might indicate that a more serious medical problem is present.

Diabetics may experience pincer nails.
Diabetics may experience pincer nails.

The first symptoms of pincer nails might be the feeling that something is caught under the nail. Other symptoms are pain without apparent cause, redness and inflammation. In a case where the large toenail is the only one affected, the cause is most likely ill-fitting shoes. If more than one toe or finger is affected, there might be an underlying cause.

Non-hygienic practices at nail salons may cause fungal infections that lead to pincer nails.
Non-hygienic practices at nail salons may cause fungal infections that lead to pincer nails.

Another cause of pincer nails is heredity, but this is rare. Other medical causes include gout, diabetes, fungal infection and malnourishment. A physician should be consulted in order to correctly diagnose the possible causes of any toenail or fingernail disorders.

Non-hygienic practices at nail salons might cause fungal infections that could result in pincer nails. A salon’s methods of cleaning its shop and tools usually is graded by a regulating authority to make sure that sanitation rules are followed. If everything is in order, the salon's nail technicians can be helpful in making sure that fingernails and toenails are filed correctly.

Surgery may be required to treat pincer nails.
Surgery may be required to treat pincer nails.

Home treatment of pincer nails includes soaking the nail in warm water and massaging the skin away from the nail. The skin might be inflamed and infected, in which case an antiseptic can be added. The underside of the nail should be cleaned thoroughly and the nail filed straight across. Correct-fitting shoes with plenty of room for the foot should be worn.

Poorly cut or filed fingernails can cause pincer nails.
Poorly cut or filed fingernails can cause pincer nails.

If this treatment does not help, surgery might be necessary. A surgeon might remove the affected nail and then apply a solution to kill the nail cells so that the nail does not grow back. This treatment would be used if an underlying bone deformity would not allow any subsequent nail to grow correctly. In cases when the underlying bone is at fault and the condition is chronic, the protruding bone might have to be removed in order for there to be any relief from pincer nails.

Pincer Nail Causes 

Pincer nails can have several causes. Although some are more common than others, they lead to the same painful condition.

Biology

There’s a strong indication that pincer nail is a hereditary condition. In other words, if one of your parents suffers from pincer nails, there’s a high likelihood you will, too.

Tumors in the nailbed have also been known to cause pincer nails, although this is quite rare.

Shoes

Many foot problems can be traced back to poorly-fitting shoes. Ingrown and pincer nails are no exception.

Fungal Infection

Fungal infections can also cause pincer nails. This is because fungus under the toenail can affect how the nail grows. As a result, it can cause it to become “pinched,” leading to significant discomfort.

Treatment For Pincer Nails 

There are a few different treatments for pincer nails. Some are simple treatments you can do at home, while others will need to be performed by your doctor.

Surgery

Surgery is a common treatment for pincer nails. However, because it’s an extreme treatment method, it’s typically only used for severe cases.

There are two types of surgery: matricectomy and nail extraction.

Matricectomy

Pincer nails are a form of ingrown toenails.
Pincer nails are a form of ingrown toenails.

A matricectomy is a procedure that removes part of the nail matrix, which is where toenail growth begins. If you get a full matricectomy, no new nail will grow. However, in some cases, a partial matricectomy can take care of the issue and leave you with a narrow nail.

Nail Extraction

A nail extraction procedure will remove the entire toenail. However, unlike a matricectomy, a new nail will grow back in time. So, if surgery is on the table and you want to ensure your toenail grows back, ask your doctor about nail extraction.

Nail Grinding

Nail grinding is a more straightforward method for treating a pincer nail. Your doctor will grind your toenail using a high-speed grinder to thin out the nail. This will allow it to grow flat instead of curved. This method can take several months.

Brace

In more minor cases, a brace can help correct the curvature of the nail. You’ll need to get fitted for a brace with your doctor. However, this is a good option if other non-surgical treatments haven’t worked and you want to avoid surgery.

How To Fix a Pincer Nail at Home

If your pincer nail is extremely painful or severely deformed, it’s probably best to visit your doctor before trying to treat it yourself. But for less extreme cases, there are a few things you can try at home.

Foot Care

Pincer nails can be cause by illnesses like gout.
Pincer nails can be cause by illnesses like gout.

Proper foot care is the best treatment for a pincer nail because you can also use it as a preventative. If your nail has curved into a pincer shape, take some time to show your toes some attention. Start by soaking your nails, then gently massage them. When you trim or file your nails, avoid filing at a sharp angle or trimming them too short.

Switch Shoes

Since pincer nails are often caused by ill-fitting shoes, avoid wearing too-tight shoes or socks. Specifically, if you enjoy wearing pointy-toed shoes, consider setting them aside until you get your problem corrected.

Brace

For less-severe pincer nail cases, you can purchase a brace at your local drugstore or online. It may not be as effective as the one you’d get from your doctor, but it’s a good place to start.

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Discussion Comments

JordanD

@LitNerd89 Yes, pincer nails are more common in the elderly due to a number of medical conditions that tend to arise later in life. A lot of elderly have health problems such as diabetes or liver problems, and medications may increase the likelihood that they'll develop pincer nails. Older people may also not be able to properly care for their nails, leading to fungus in or on toenails and fingernails and ingrown nails.

LitNerd89

Are older people more likely to develop pincer nails? I've seen a few elderly people with thick, curved nails that seem to fit this description, but have not seen it in many young adults or children.

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    • Pincer nails may occur as a result of ill-fitting shoes.
      By: vladimirfloyd
      Pincer nails may occur as a result of ill-fitting shoes.
    • Diabetics may experience pincer nails.
      By: Ljupco Smokovski
      Diabetics may experience pincer nails.
    • Non-hygienic practices at nail salons may cause fungal infections that lead to pincer nails.
      By: sakura
      Non-hygienic practices at nail salons may cause fungal infections that lead to pincer nails.
    • Surgery may be required to treat pincer nails.
      By: olly
      Surgery may be required to treat pincer nails.
    • Poorly cut or filed fingernails can cause pincer nails.
      By: terex
      Poorly cut or filed fingernails can cause pincer nails.
    • Pincer nails are a form of ingrown toenails.
      By: adam88xx
      Pincer nails are a form of ingrown toenails.
    • Pincer nails can be cause by illnesses like gout.
      By: p6m5
      Pincer nails can be cause by illnesses like gout.