An ingrown toenail develops when the edge of the nail grows down and cuts into the surrounding skin.

  • About ingrown toenail
  • Symptoms of ingrown toenails
  • Complications of ingrown toenails
  • Causes of ingrown toenails
  • Diagnosis of ingrown toenails
  • Treatment of ingrown toenails
  • Prevention of ingrown toenails

About ingrown toenail

Ingrown toenails can develop on just one or both sides of your toe. Your big toes are most likely to be affected. They are common among teenagers and young adults, but you can get an ingrown toenail at any age.

Ingrown Toenail
Ingrown Toenail

Symptoms of ingrown toenails

To begin with you may not get any symptoms. The skin surrounding your toenail may become hard, swollen or tender. Eventually your ingrown toenail may become painful, especially if you put pressure on the area. It may feel warm, and become red and swollen.

You probably won’t need to see your doctor if you think you have an ingrown toenail. However, if your symptoms get worse and aren’t helped by self-help measures or over-the-counter painkillers, see your doctor for advice.

Complications of ingrown toenails

It’s possible your ingrown toenail may become infected. Your symptoms may get worse and the area may:

  • be painful or red
  • become swollen
  • blister
  • bleed

The infection may spread to the rest of your toe if it isn’t treated. See your doctor if you think your ingrown toenail may be infected.

Causes of ingrown toenails

There are several things that can cause, or contribute to, an ingrown toenail.

  • Wearing shoes that don’t fit you properly. If your shoes are too tight, they can force the skin surrounding your toenail against the nail.
  • Cutting your toenails incorrectly. Cutting them too short or into a curved shape is more likely to make the nail grow into your skin.
  • An injury to your toenail. A ripped nail, or a nail that has peeled off at its edge, can leave your toenail deformed and cause an ingrown toenail.
  • Fungal infections. These can cause your nail to become thickened or widened, making it more likely to grow into your skin.
  • If you’re sporty or active, you’re more likely to get an ingrown toenail. This is because your feet will sweat more, making your skin softer and easier for your nails to grow into.
  • If you have inherited fan-shaped nails, you’re more likely to get an ingrown toenail.

Diagnosis of ingrown toenails

Your doctor will look at your nail and the skin around it. He or she may refer you to an orthopaedic surgeon (a health professional who specialises in conditions that affect the feet).

Treatment of ingrown toenails


Take oral antibiotics can help to stop the infection.


If your ingrown toenail is causing you a lot of pain, and you’ve tried oral antibiotics and it is not improving. Your doctor may recommend you to have 10% of your toenail removed. Most people will have the procedure under local anaesthesia. This completely blocks pain from the area and you will stay awake during the procedure.

Your toe will be cleaned with antiseptic and the ingrown section of the nail which is about 10% bit of it is cut away to create a new, straight nail edge.

The root of the ingrown toenail will be removed to prevent recurrent ingrown toenail.

After your operation, your toe will be covered with a dressing. Keep the dressing dry at all times.

Prevention of ingrown toenails

There are a number of things you can do to prevent an ingrown toenail.

  • Cut your toenails straight across rather than as a curve with short edges.
  • Use clean, sharp nail trimmers.
  • Wear shoes that are wide enough for your feet and that don’t apply pressure on your toes.
  • Try not to wear narrow, pointed shoes.
  • Keep your feet clean and dry. Wash your feet every day and change your socks and tights every day.
Proper and Improper Nail Cutting
Proper and Improper Nail Cutting

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