What Is It?
An ingrown toenail has an edge that pushes into the skin and soft tissue at the side of the nail. This can cause redness, swelling and pain, and can lead to infection. Symptoms can be more noticeable when wearing a shoe that puts pressure on the nail. It is more common for the nail on the big toe to become ingrown than other toes.
Causes of ingrown toenails can include improper cutting, wearing ill-fitting shoes, or by an injury to the nail bed. Ingrown toenails also can run in the family in some cases.
The most common symptom is pain, especially if the area becomes infected. The surrounding skin might be deep pink and release a discharge or pus. It may also appear raw with a red lump overlapping the nail edge.
Ingrown toenails can correct themselves as they grow out. More advanced cases may need to be addressed by a podiatrist.
There are several things you can do to prevent ingrown toenails from forming:
- Cut your toenails straight across so that the corner of the nail is visible to you, not buried under skin at the side of your nail. If you are not able to see the corner of your nail as you trim it, your nail might have a jagged corner after it is trimmed, it may have an edge that can extend under your skin as it grows. Use clippers that are designed to cut toenails specifically, or use a nail file.
- Wear shoes that do not push your toes together.
In the early stages of an ingrown toenail, soak your foot in warm water containing antibacterial soap or a few tablespoons of salt. Dry your foot and apply an over-the-counter antibiotic ointment and clean dressing. Do not cut your nail. For the next few days, wear open-toed or loose-fitting shoes. When the nail grows out, cut it straight across.
More advanced ingrown toenails require the attention of a podiatrist. If the nail is not deeply ingrown the edge of the nail may be lifted from the skin edge that it is irritated. The area can then be cleaned to avoid further irritation.
For a more deeply ingrown nail, your podiatrist may use a local anesthetic before removing a vertical strip of nail, allowing the nail to regrow without an ingrown edge.