Ingrown Toenail

An Ingrown toenail is a common condition in which the corner or the side of a toenail grows into the soft flesh of the toe. The result can be pain, redness, swelling, and infection. Ingrown toenails usually affect your big toe.

Often you can take care of ingrown toenails on your own. If the pain is severe or spreading, your doctor will take steps to relieve your discomfort and help you avoid complications.

If you have diabetes or another condition that causes poor blood flow to your feet, an ingrown toenail could lead to further complications.


Causes of ingrown toenails include:

  • Heredity. In many people, the tendency for ingrown toenails is inherited.
  • Trauma. Sometimes an ingrown toenail is the result of trauma, such as stubbing your toe, an object falling on your toe, or activities that involve repeated pressure on the toes such as kicking or running.
  • Improper trimming. The most common cause of ingrown toenails is cutting your nails too short. This encourages the skin next to the nail to fold over the nail.
  • Improperly sized footwear. Ingrown toenails can result from wearing socks or shoes that are tight.
  • Nail health. Ingrown toenails can be caused by nail problems, such as fungal infections or losing a nail due to trauma.

If an ingrown nail causes a break in the skin, bacteria may enter and cause an infection, which is often marked by drainage and a foul odor. However, even if the toe is not red, swollen, warm, or in pain, a nail that curves downward into the skin can progress into an infection.


Potential Treatments

After examining the toe, your doctor will select the treatment best suited for you. If an infection is present, an oral antibiotic may be prescribed. Sometimes, a minor surgical procedure will ease the pain and remove the offending nail. After applying a local anesthetic, your doctor will remove a part of the nail’s side border. Some nails may become ingrown again, requiring removal of the nail root. Following the nail procedure, a light bandage will be applied. Most people experience very little pain after this surgery, and can resume their normal daily activities the next day. If your doctor prescribes an oral antibiotic, be sure to take all the medication, even if your symptoms have improved.

Home treatment is strongly discouraged if there is any reason to believe that there might be an infection, or if you have any medical conditions, such as diabetes, nerve damage, or poor circulation.

Disclaimer: The Relief Institute has made reasonable efforts to present accurate information on this website; however, it is possible that information found on this website could potentially be out-of-date or limited in nature. Any medical and health-related information presented on this website is general in nature. The Relief Institute does not furnish or render professional health care services or medical care. Therefore, the information presented on this website is not a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment, nor is it intended to provide you with a specific diagnosis or treatment for a specific ailment. The information is made available to you for educational and informational purposes and does not constitute the practice of medicine and/or as a substitute for consultation with your personal health care provider. Click here to view our full disclaimer.