An ingrown nail is a condition in which a portion of the corner or side of the nail presses into the soft tissue or skin of the toe. People can experience this problem in any of their toes, but it most commonly happens in the large toes.

Ingrown Toenail Symptoms

  • Pain of the toenail and the skin touching it
  • Redness associated around the nail plate and its edges
  • Swelling of the toe
  • Sensitivity around the toenail
  • Infection of the adjacent tissue
  • Abnormal tissue growth

When the condition goes untreated “proud flesh” tissue buildup can occur causing a red bulb-like area of skin to form along the nail border (see diagram above).

What causes or promotes the growth of an ingrown toenail?

  • Wearing shoes and socks that crowd or rub the toes and toenails
  • Improper trimming of the toenail edge: cutting the toenail too sort and not straight across
  • Injury to the toe nail system
  • Excessive moisture from sweat or from outside
  • An overly aggressive pedicure
  • Poor foot hygiene
  • Diabetes
  • Poor circulation
  • Fungal infections
  • Pincer nails that naturally curl inward or sideways
  • Congenital toe deformity
  • Cutting the nail at an angle
  • Digging the nail corners
  • Picking at the nails
  • “Bathroom” surgery


The most popular and effective treatment techniques that your podiatrist can provide for you include:

  • Temporary nail wedge removal
  • Temporary or permanent partial or total nail and matrix removal
  • Soft tissue border re-sectioning
  • Phenol and alcohol or sodium hydroxide matrixectomy – destruction of the nail root
  • Laser surgery
  • Routine office visits for upkeep
  • Appropriate nail cutting and hygiene

IMPORTANT: it is highly advised to seek medical advice before tampering with any type of nail problems seemingly related to the symptoms associated with ingrown toenails. Improper treatment done at home can escalate your condition into something worse like a serious infection, loss of the nail, or damaged tissue. In severe cases amputation is necessary when ingrown toenails are not treated by a knowledgeable professional.

Here are some tips for treating an ingrown toenail after you’ve seen your podiatrist

  • Soak your feet in warm water with Epsom salts 3-4 times each day
  • Keep your feet dry throughout the day, being sure to dry between the toes as well
  • Use footwear with plenty of toe room that prevents rubbing or bunching from happening
  • Take ibuprofen or acetaminophen as directed to help manage the pain
  • Follow up with your doctor

Your podiatrist may need to perform specialized surgical treatments to remedy the situation, including:

  • Removal or modification of the nail and/or nail matrix
  • Oral antibiotics

Helpful tips for avoiding future nail issues

  • Make sure footwear and socks fit well
  • Use cream to keep nail edges soft
  • Cut nails straight across, following a gentle curve at the corner edges
  • Maintain a healthy bodyweight
  • Avoid digging and picking at the corner and edges of the nail
  • Do not cut the nail too short
  • Use an emery board (not a file) to smooth any rough edges of the nail
  • Do not ignore an ingrown nail, inflammation, redness, or abnormalities on or about the nail
  • Gently remove debris from the nail corners – usually with a toothbrush in the shower