Ingrown toenails

(see our Ingrown Toenail Correction page for videos and procedure details)


What Is an Ingrown Toenail?


· The nail is curved downward and grows into the skin, usually at the nail borders (the sides of the nail).

· This “digging in” of the nail irritates the skin, often creating pain, redness, swelling, and warmth in the toe.

· If an ingrown nail causes a break in the skin, bacteria may enter and cause an  infection in the area, which is often marked by drainage and a foul odour.

What Causes an Ingrown Toenail?


· This common disorder is often inherited. That is, you can inherit curved toenails from your parents.

· Otherwise it is the result of trauma, such as stubbing your toe, having an object fall on your toe, or engaging in activities that involve repeated pressure on the toes, such as kicking or running.

· The most common cause of ingrown toenails is improper trimming. Cutting your nails too short encourages the skin next to the nail to fold over the nail. Another cause of ingrown toenails is wearing shoes that are too tight or short.



· Home treatment is strongly discouraged if you suspect you have an infection, or if you have a medical condition that puts your feet at high risk such as diabetes, nerve damage in the foot, or poor circulation.

· Home care:  If you don’t have an infection or any of the above conditions, you can soak your foot in room-temperature water (add Epsom salt if you wish), and gently massage the side of the nail fold to help reduce the inflammation.

· Avoid attempting “bathroom surgery.”


Foot Specialist Treatment

· Antibiotics. If an infection is present, an antibiotic cream or pill may be prescribed. However, the embedded nail must be physically removed from the flesh for lasting pain relief and resolution of symptoms.

· Surgery. A simple procedure performed in the office is commonly needed to ease the pain and remove the offending nail. Surgery may involve numbing the toe and removing a portion of the nail

· Permanent removal. Various techniques may be used to destroy or remove the nail root. This treatment prevents the recurrence of an ingrown toenail. Your specialist will determine the most appropriate procedure for you. Following nail surgery, a light bandage will be applied.

· Most people experience very little pain after surgery and may resume normal activity the next day. If you have been prescribed an oral antibiotic, be sure to take all the medication, even if your symptoms have improved.



Preventing Ingrown Toenails


Many cases of ingrown toenails may be prevented by following these three important tips:

· Trim your nails fairly straight across and don’t cut them too short. You should be able to get your fingernail under the sides and end of the nail.

· If you can’t see well or aren’t flexible enough to reach your nails, see your foot specialist—it’s their job!

· Don’t wear shoes that are short or tight in the toe box.