Ingrown Toenail

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What Is an Ingrown Toenail?

An ingrown toenail occurs when the edge of a toenail grows into the surrounding skin, causing pain, redness, swelling, and sometimes infection. This condition typically affects the big toe and can be uncomfortable and, if left untreated, may lead to more serious complications.


  • Pain: Discomfort or pain along the edges of the toenail, especially when pressure is applied.
  • Redness: Redness and swelling around the affected nail area.
  • Swelling: The skin around the nail may become swollen.
  • Infection: Signs of infection such as pus, increased pain, and a feeling of warmth in the affected area.
  • Difficulty Walking: Severe cases may cause significant discomfort, affecting walking and daily activities.


Several factors can contribute to the development of ingrown toenails, including:

  • Improper Nail Trimming: Cutting the toenails too short or rounding the edges can encourage the nail to grow into the skin.
  • Tight Footwear: Wearing shoes that are too tight or narrow can put pressure on the toes, pushing the nails into the skin.
  • Injury: Trauma to the toenail, such as stubbing your toe or dropping something heavy on it, can cause the nail to grow abnormally.
  • Genetics: Some people have naturally curved nails, which are more prone to becoming ingrown.
  • Poor Foot Hygiene: Not keeping feet clean and dry can contribute to nail problems.
  • Repetitive Activity: Activities that put pressure on the toes, like running or soccer, can increase the risk of ingrown toenails.


Diagnosis of an ingrown toenail typically involves:

  • Physical Examination: A healthcare provider will visually inspect the affected toe to assess the severity of the condition.
  • Medical History: Discussing any symptoms, previous occurrences, and contributing factors like footwear or activities.
  • Signs of Infection: Checking for signs of infection, such as redness, swelling, warmth, and discharge.


Treatment for ingrown toenails ranges from home care to medical procedures, depending on the severity:

  1. Home Care:
    • Soaking: Soak the affected foot in warm, soapy water or a saltwater solution for 15-20 minutes several times a day to reduce swelling and pain.
    • Proper Nail Trimming: Trim nails straight across and avoid rounding the corners.
    • Loose Footwear: Wear open-toed or loose-fitting shoes to avoid putting pressure on the affected toe.
    • Pain Relief: Over-the-counter pain relievers like ibuprofen can help manage discomfort.
  2. Medical Treatment:
    • Antibiotics: If there’s an infection, a doctor may prescribe oral or topical antibiotics.
    • Lifting the Nail: For a mildly ingrown nail, a healthcare provider might lift the nail and place cotton or a splint under it to help it grow above the skin edge.
    • Partial Nail Removal: For more severe cases, a portion of the nail may be removed. This can be done under local anesthesia in a doctor’s office.
    • Full Nail Removal: In recurrent cases, removing the entire nail or destroying the nail matrix to prevent regrowth might be necessary.
  3. Preventive Measures:
    • Proper Footwear: Wear shoes that fit well and provide adequate room for your toes.
    • Regular Nail Care: Keep nails trimmed properly and maintain good foot hygiene.
    • Avoid Trauma: Protect your feet from injury and avoid activities that put excessive pressure on your toes.


Ingrown toenails can be painful and lead to complications if not treated properly. Following good nail care practices and wearing appropriate footwear can help prevent this condition.

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