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What are ingrown toenails?

An ingrown toenail is a toenail that, as it grows out, digs into the surrounding skin of your affected toe. Ingrown toenails are often seen in the feet of athletes, and wearing certain footwear may contribute to the development of ingrown toenails. Ingrown toenails usually impact your big toe, but they can also affect other toes as well.

What causes ingrown toenails?

Ingrown toenails occur when the left side, right side, or a corner of your toenail grows and starts to dig into the skin of the affected toe. Ingrown toenails may occur as a result of the following:

  • Wearing certain footwear
  • Sustaining toenail injuries
  • Having toenails that curve
  • Trimming your toenails too short
  • Trimming your toenails at an angle
  • Inheriting certain foot conditions

Other factors that may increase your chances of developing ingrown toenails include:

  • Engaging in athletic activities
  • Being overweight or obese
  • Improper foot care and maintenance
  • Having diabetesarthritis, or other conditions
  • Having bunionshammertoes, or other foot-related deformities
  • Excess perspiration of the feet
  • Having long toes

What are the symptoms of ingrown toenails?

An ingrown toenail may display symptoms of swelling, redness, tenderness, and pain in the affected toe. You may also develop an infection of the tissue that surrounds the affected toenail. Symptoms of an infection may include:

  • Extreme pain in the affected toe
  • Affected toe begins to secrete pus
  • Redness that spreads to other areas of the foot
  • Odor emitting from the affected toe
  • Foot sores

How are ingrown toenails diagnosed?

Ingrown toenails are diagnosed by your doctor or a podiatrist who will carefully examine your toe and toenail for signs and symptoms of an ingrown toenail.

Can ingrown toenails lead to complications if left untreated?

Left untreated, an ingrown toenail may lead to severe ongoing pain, toe deformities, bone infection, and infection of soft tissue. Your doctor may recommend topical or oral medications for treatment of any infections.

How are ingrown toenails treated?

Often times, ingrown toenails can be treated without surgery. Your doctor may recommend certain at-home treatment options, such as:

  • Soaking your feet in warm water
  • Elevating the foot
  • Placing cotton or floss beneath your toenail
  • Taking certain pain medications
  • Using certain antibiotic creams
  • Wearing comfortable footwear

If the above at-home treatment options do not help remedy the ingrown toenail, your doctor may suggest the following treatment options:

  • Lifting up the nail and placing a splint beneath the nail
  • Trimming or removing the affected area of toenail
  • Removing part of the affected toenail along with the nail bed

If you are experiencing signs and symptoms of ingrown toenails, consult a podiatrist. Dr. Robert Stein is a Doctor of Podiatric Medicine who’s been in practice for over 25 years and strives to ensure that adults and children live without foot pain or discomfort. Call one of our locations or fill out the form on this page to schedule an appointment with South Shore Foot Care today.

Every patient is unique and so are treatments. The information on this website is for educational purposes and each individual
patient care model may differ.