Ingrown Toenails – Causes, Treatment, and Prevention

Ingrown toenails are a common ailment where the toenail grows into the skin on the corner or side of your toe. Ingrown toenails cause pain and swelling and if not treated, can lead to painful infections.

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Ingrown Toenails - Introduction

Ingrown toenails are a common ailment where the toenail grows into the skin on the corner or side of your toe. Ingrown toenails cause pain and swelling and if not treated, can lead to painful infections. While they can occur on any toe, the big toe is most commonly the affected toe. While some ingrown toenails can be taken care of at home, it is wise to see a doctor to prevent complications and relieve pain. Diabetics and those with poor blood flow are at an increased risk of complications from ingrown toenails.

Symptoms of Ingrown Toenails

Symptoms of ingrown toenails include redness and swelling of the affected toenail, pain and tenderness along the side of the nail, and discharge from the tissue around your toenail. There may also be overgrown skin at the tip of the toe.

Causes of Ingrown Toenails

Several factors can contribute to ingrown toenails. Ill-fitting shoes are a common culprit. Shoes that fit improperly can squeeze the toes together or against the front of the shoe, increasing risk of toenail injury. Improper nail trimming is another common cause. If Nails are cut too short or at an angle can cause the nail to grow improperly into the skin folds of the toe. Trauma to the toe can also play a factor in an increased risk of ingrown toenails. If you play a sport such as soccer, you should pay attention to your feet. Ingrown toenails can also have a genetic component. Some families genetically have thicker or curved toenails that make them more likely to be affected.


If left untreated, an ingrown toenail can become severely infected. If severe enough, the infection can affect the bone and become a serious medical condition. Diabetics have a higher chance of developing this type of infection due to reduced blood flow to the legs and feet. Infection affecting the bone in a diabetic individual can lead to gangrene and possible amputation.

Treatment of Ingrown Toenails

It is not recommended that treatment be done at home. Over-the-counter remedies can often mask symptoms, but they do not treat the underlying cause of the ingrown toenail. A medical professional may remove the section of the nail that is grown into the skin. If the problem reoccurs, a toenail avulsion may be performed. This is where the doctor cuts away sections of the nail and reshapes it. This is typically done under a local anesthetic. In severe reoccurring cases, the entire nail may be removed. This will usually have a 1 to 2-week recovery period.

Prevention of Ingrown Toenails

Much of the prevention of ingrown toenails has to do with the way you trim your toenails and the fit of your shoes. Make sure you trim your toenails straight across, not curved to match the shape of your toe. Trim nails so that they are even with the tip of your toes. If you trim your toenails too short, the pressure from walking in shoes may encourage the nail to grow into the tissue. Properly fitting footwear, including shoes, socks, and stockings are a must. Shoes need to be the correct width and length as to not crowd the toes. If you have the potential for toe trauma, either due to work or sport, find appropriate protective footwear. If you have diabetes or other health problems that cause low blood flow to the feet, check your feet daily to make sure that there are no issues with the nails. If you can not reach your feet to trim the nails, make an appointment for a professional trim.


Ingrown toenails are a common problem that can usually be mitigated with proper toenail care and footwear. If ingrown toenails do still occur, a visit to a doctor is highly recommended. The board certified and qualified foot and ankle specialists at 1 Foot 2 Foot Centre for Foot and Ankle Care are here to help you with all your needs. Contact us today to schedule an appointment – let us Relieve, Support, and Pamper Your Soles.