Thumbnail image of: Ingrown Toenail: Illustration

Ingrown Toenail

What is an ingrown toenail?

An ingrown toenail is a toenail that grows into the skin or tissue around your toenail. Most often, the problem affects the big toe.

What is the cause?

There are several possible causes of an ingrown toenail:

  • Cutting the nail shorter on the sides instead of straight across
  • Wearing shoes or boots that are too tight
  • Injuries from direct blows or a lot of kicking, such as playing soccer

Ingrown toenails may run in families. You may be born with nails shaped in ways that tend to grow into the skin.

What are the symptoms?

Symptoms may include:

  • Painful, red, swollen skin around the nail
  • If the area becomes infected, you may have fluid and pus draining from the skin around the nail

How is it diagnosed?

Your healthcare provider will ask about your symptoms and medical history and examine you.

How is it treated?

If you have diabetes, see your healthcare provider for treatment of an ingrown toenail. Otherwise, to treat this condition:

  • Soak your foot in a basin of warm water 2 or 3 times a day.
  • Lift the corner of the nail with an orange stick, tip of a metal nail file, or pair of tweezers and place a small piece of cotton under this part of the nail. Change the piece of cotton every day.
  • Keep your feet clean and dry.
  • Wear open-toed shoes or sandals.

If your toe is infected, you may need to take antibiotics.

If the ingrown nail does not get better, your healthcare provider may need to remove all or part of the nail. Your provider will use a numbing medicine before doing this.

How can I prevent an ingrown toenail?

  • Trim your toenails straight across, using a nail clipper. Never cut down corners.
  • Make sure your shoes fit well. Wear shoes that do not cramp your toes.
  • If your job or sport could injure your toes, wear protective footwear.
Developed by RelayHealth.
Adult Advisor 2015.1 published by RelayHealth.
Last modified: 2014-10-06
Last reviewed: 2014-10-06
This content is reviewed periodically and is subject to change as new health information becomes available. The information is intended to inform and educate and is not a replacement for medical evaluation, advice, diagnosis or treatment by a healthcare professional.
Copyright ©1986-2015 McKesson Corporation and/or one of its subsidiaries. All rights reserved.

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