An ingrown toenail is when the edge of a toenail grows into the skin of the toe. This can happen with any of the toes. However, it is most common in one of the big toes.
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Common causes are improper nail care and pressure or injury to the toes. This can make the nail curve and grow into the skin.
Ingrown toenails are more common in people with family members who have them. Other things that may raise the chance of an ingrown toenail are:
Ingrown toenails may not cause symptoms at first. When symptoms occur, they may include:
- Pain—sometimes severe
The doctor will ask about symptoms and past health. A physical exam may be done on the feet. This is enough to make the diagnosis.
Treatment depends on how severe the ingrown toenail is. It also depends on if the person has other health problems. Medical care is needed for those who have:
- An ingrown toenail that is severe, not getting better, or getting worse
- Circulation problems
- Problems with the immune system
- Other chronic health problems
People over 50 years of age should also talk to their doctor. General treatment options include:
To help reduce the chances of an ingrown toenail:
- Cut toenails straight across. Do not round the edges. The corner of the nail should be above the skin of the toe.
- Wear shoes and socks that fit well. They should not be too tight.
- Keep the feet clean and dry.
It may help to:
- Wear open-toed shoes or sandals. This reduces pressure on the toenail.
- Soak the foot in warm water. Dry it fully.
- Ingrown toenails. Family Doctor—American Academy of Family Physicians website. Available at: https://familydoctor.org/condition/ingrown-toenails.
- Ingrown toenail. Foot Health Facts—American College of Foot and Ankle Surgeons website. Available at: https://www.foothealthfacts.org/conditions/ingrown-toenail.
- Paronychia. EBSCO DynaMed website. Available at: https://www.dynamed.com/condition/paronychia.
- Tian, J., Li, J., et al. A new perspective on the nail plate for treatment of ingrown toenail. Dermatology Practical & Conceptual, 2018; 8 (1): 22–27.
- Mary-Beth Seymour, RN
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