Ingrown Toenails

Symptoms, Causes, and Treatment

What Are Ingrown Toenails?

When the corner or side of your toenail grows into the flesh around it, it is known as an ingrown toenail. The condition typically occurs on the big toe, causing pain, swelling, and eventually leading to infection if left untreated.

What Causes an Ingrown Toenail?

There are many possible causes of an ingrown toenail, including:
  • Genetic conditions
  • Ill-fitting shoes
  • Improperly trimming toenails
  • Injuring the toe

While not all of these examples lead definitively to ingrown toenails, it is important to keep an eye out should you experience or be diagnosed with any of them.

Closeup of podiatrist treating an ingrown toenail

Treatment Options

Dr. Sana will examine the ingrown toenail to assess the best treatment options. You will most likely be advised to follow a foot care regimen that entails:

  • Applying prescribed or recommended antibiotics or other medications to the ingrown toenail
  • Avoiding pressure on the nail (from shoes and, whenever possible, body weight)
  • Soaking the affected foot in lukewarm water with Epsom salt and applying a topical antibiotic and band aid

If conservative treatment methods are ineffective, or if the ingrown toenail is severe, you may require a surgical treatment. There are two types of surgical treatments for ingrown toenails.

Untreated ingrown toenail
  • Wedge resection: A piece of the lateral nail plate is removed, allowing the toenail to grow properly. This may even involve the removal of the entire toenail.
  • Germinal matrix removal: If the ingrown toenail returns, you may require a chemical removal of the germinal matrix. The germinal matrix is the region of the nail beneath the lunula (the area of the nail closest to the knuckle), where the majority of nail production occurs.

Be sure to contact a podiatrist right away if you notice an ingrown toenail coming back after a surgical treatment.

Complications Associated with Ingrown Toenails

While it may not seem like much, untreated ingrown toenails can lead to serious problems. As the nail continues to grow, it pierces the skin, which can lead to infection. If you see pus in what you know or believe to be in ingrown toenail, contact a doctor immediately.

Complications from an ingrown toenail can be especially severe for those who have diabetes. Diabetes causes poor circulation, with greatly affects the feet and can lead to nerve damage. This makes it easier for ingrown toenails to go unnoticed and for infections to spread and grow. If you have diabetes and experience ingrown toenails or any other foot injury, please see our page on diabetic foot care.

Illustration of proper toenail cutting procedure

How Can You Prevent Ingrown Toenails?

Though ingrown toenails can lead to a number of issues, there are also multiple ways to prevent them.
  • Don't trim your toenails too short
  • Trim your toenails straight across instead of trying to match the curve of your toe
  • If you have diabetes, check your feet and toes daily
  • Wear shoes that fit properly
  • Wear protective shoes when risk of toe injury is high

If you think you have an ingrown toenail, contact Phoenician Foot & Ankle to schedule a consultation today.