What is an ingrown toenail?

Ingrown toenails occur when the edges or corners of your nails grow into the skin next to the nail. Your big toe is most likely to get an ingrown toenail.

 

Many things can cause an ingrown toenail, including:

  • cutting toenails incorrectly (Cut straight across, since angling the sides of the nail can encourage the nail to grow into the skin.)

  • irregular, curved toenails

  • footwear that places a lot of pressure on the big toes, such as socks and stockings that are too tight or shoes that are too tight, narrow, or flat for your feet

  • toenail injury, including stubbing your toe, dropping something heavy on your foot, or kicking a ball repeatedly

  • improper foot hygiene, such as not keeping your feet clean or dry

symptoms of an ingrown toenail

Ingrown toenails can be painful, and they usually worsen in stages.

Early-stage symptoms include:

  • skin next to the nail becoming tender, swollen, or hard

  • pain when pressure is placed on the toe

  • fluid building up around the toe

If your toe becomes infected, symptoms may include:

  • red, swollen skin

  • pain

  • bleeding

  • oozing pus

  • overgrowth of skin around the toe

Treatment of an ingrown toenail 

  • Lifting the nail. For a slightly ingrown nail (redness and pain but no pus), your doctor may carefully lift the ingrowing nail edge and place cotton, dental floss or a splint under it. This separates the nail from the overlying skin and helps the nail grow above the skin edge. At home, you'll need to soak the toe and replace the material daily.

  • Partially removing the nail. For a more severe ingrown toenail (redness, pain and pus), your doctor may trim or remove the ingrown portion of the nail. Before this procedure, your doctor may temporarily numb your toe by injecting it with an anesthetic.

  • Removing the nail and tissue. If you have the problem repeatedly on the same toe, your doctor may suggest removing a portion of the nail along with the underlying tissue (nail bed). This procedure may prevent that part of your nail from growing back. Your doctor will use a chemical, a laser or other methods.