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Ingrown Toenail Facts

Ingrown Toenail Symptoms, Causes, Treatment and Prevention

If your toenail is hurting your toe, you might have an ingrown toenail. Ingrown toenails are caused when the corner of the toenail grows in a curve and cuts into the skin. It can start as a minor irritation, but if left alone it can become inflamed or even infected. This usually happens with the big toe, but other toes can also be affected. An ingrown toenail can become a reoccurring issue, but if you deal with it now you can avoid an increasingly painful problem.



Symptoms of an Ingrown Toenail

Knowing what to look for can help you decide how to treat your painful toe. An ingrown toenail can make your toe red and sensitive to touch. It may be painful to wear shoes, but even your bed sheets may cause pain. If your toe is swelling or oozing pus you may have an infection. 



Call us immediately if Your Toe Is:

Smells bad
Draining pus
Misshapen skin around nail
If you have red streaks leading from your toe.


If you are diabetic or have peripheral vascular disease, or other circulatory disorders,
call us right away regardless of aggravated symptoms above.


Call for Appointment


Causes of an Ingrown Toenail

Lots of things can cause an ingrown toenail. Stubbing your toe, wearing shoes that don’t fit, or cutting your nails improperly can all cause toenails to curve inward and become irritated.

Who Gets Ingrown Toenails


Ingrown toenails are very common with over 3 million cases seen each year. We usually think of adults having them, but children can get them, too. Anyone can develop ingrown toenails, but they’re most likely to affect people with thicker toenails, especially the elderly. They can also be hereditary. Athletes and people with diabetes tend to have a high rate of occurrence as well.


Safe Treatment for Ingrown Toenails


Depending on the severity of your pain and symptoms you may opt to try some home treatments for your ingrown toenail. Here is a simple, effective treatment:

  • Soak your toe in warm salt water 15 or 20 minutes. Dry off and apply antiseptic to the irritated area, then bandage the toe.
  • While your toe is healing wear loose comfortable footwear, like sandals, that won’t put pressure on your toe.

Caution - Do not try to drain or cut away areas of infection, or dig into an inflamed area with sharp objects like needles or nail files to cut away the nail. This will only cause further irritation and infection and can lead to chronic recurrence.


Painful nails that don’t get better with simple home care should be seen, diagnosed and treated by a podiatrist before they become much worse.



Ingrown toenail being treated by a podiatristWhat Happens When You See a Podiatrist

When you see your podiatrist they will remove the part of the nail that is ingrown and doing damage to your toe. This might require minor surgery if the nail has grown very deep. Once the nail has been cut back you may be prescribed a topical medication for the infection and possibly antibiotics and/or pain medication. There are also procedures available if you have a chronic problem with ingrowing nails.

How to Prevent Ingrown Toenails

  • Wear shoes that fit properly
  • Wear steel-toe work boots
  • Cut toenails properly
  • Do not tear off nails or cut too short



Trim Toenails Properly

The right way to cut your toenails is straight across. Don’t cut too short or cut on a curve. Leaving the nails a little longer on the sides can help them grow over the skin instead of curving down into your toe. Discuss proper nail trimming with your doctor if you have special concerns like diabetes or peripheral arterial disease.



Call us at 505-797-1001
if you think you have an ingrown toenail
or need help caring for your feet.

We can usually get you a same-day appointment if you feel your toenail is infected.


FAANM can also help you with other toe conditions, including:

Toenail fungus
Black toenail



Image Credit: *bri*/flickr