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Do you have an ingrown toenail?

An ingrown toenail occurs when nail irritates the soft tissue and skin on the side of the toe which can lead to infection. When you trim your toenails too short, especially down the sides of your big toes, you may be setting yourself up for an ingrown nail and weeks of unnecessary pain.

Tapering down the corners, so that the nail curves with the shape of your toe, can leave aggressive sharp edges that curl down and dig into the skin of your toe. Shoes that are too tight or too short can also pre-dispose you to an ingrown toenail. Any of your nails can be affected but it most commonly presents in the big toenails.


First signs of an ingrown toenail are tenderness down the side of the nail, which may then progress to hardness and swelling. If left untreated the area may get red, infected and feel very sore. Sometimes a small amount of pus can be seen draining from the area.

Why does it happen? 

Ingrown nails may develop for many reasons. The most common cause is tight shoes or improper trimming of the nail. Trauma, such as stubbing the toe or having the toe stepped on, may also cause ingrowing to occur. Some people are just born with rounded nails that grow in naturally without any external influences.


Acting quickly is very important. If recognized early (before infection sets in), it may prevent the need for further treatment:

  • Soak the foot in warm clean water 3-4 times daily. Keep the foot dry & clean during the rest of the day.
  • Wear comfortable shoes with adequate room for the toes. Consider wearing sandals until the condition clears up.
  • An antiseptic cream or ointment may be used to kill off infections.
  • You may take medication for pain relief (see your doctor for advice.)
  • If no improvement in 2-3 days, or if the condition worsens, call your podiatrist.

Surgical treatment 

If excessive inflammation, swelling, pain and discharge are present, the toenail is probably infected and should be treated by a Podiatrist. You may need to take oral antibiotics which a GP can prescribe.

The nail may need to be partially or completely removed. This removal is easily done in the podiatrists consulting rooms and may involve removal of a portion of the nail, a portion of the underlying nail bed, some of the adjacent soft tissues and even a part of the nail growth plate. Permanent removal of the nail may be advised for children with chronic, recurrent infected ingrown toenails.

What does the nail surgery involve? 

Your toe is numbed with an anesthetic so after the initial injection there is no pain. Your Podiatrist will then use special clippers to cut away the ingrown part of the toenail, clear the nail edge and then dress the toe. You will be given instructions to keep it clean and continue to dress the area daily.

Risk factors 

Nails should be cut straight across with a clean, sharp nail clippers without tapering or rounding the corners. Trim the nails only to the edge of the toe. Keep the feet clean and dry at all times. Wide fitting shoes are essential to prevent irritation.

If you are concerned about ingrown toenails be sure to come in and see us at OPSMC as soon as possible for a check up

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