Understanding and Managing Ingrown Toenails

Ingrown toenails can be both painful and irritating. It happens when the edge of the toenail grows into the skin of the toe. This condition can happen in any toe but most frequently occurs in the big toe. Here’s what you need to know to manage and prevent them.

Causes of Ingrown Toenails

Several factors can contribute to the development of ingrown toenails, including:

  • Improper trimming: Cutting toenails too short or not straight across can encourage the nail to grow into the skin.
  • Tight footwear: Shoes and socks that don’t fit properly can press the nail into the surrounding skin.
  • Injury: Stubbing your toe or having an object fall on your foot can cause a nail to grow abnormally.
  • Genetics: In some cases, ingrown toenails can be inherited.


Common signs of an ingrown toenail include:

  • Pain and tenderness in your toe along one or both sides of the nail
  • Redness around your toenail
  • Swelling of your toe around the nail
  • Infection of the tissue around your toenail in more severe cases


For minor ingrown toenails:

  • Soak your feet in warm water 3-4 times a day if possible.
  • Wear proper fitting shoes and socks that allow your toes ample space.
  • Try to lift the nail: For mild cases, gently lift the edge of the ingrown nail and place a small amount of cotton or dental floss under it to help it grow above the skin edge.

If your toenail is severely ingrown or infected, it’s important to seek medical advice from a healthcare provider who may prescribe antibiotics or perform a minor procedure to remove part of the nail.


Preventing ingrown toenails is often more effective than having to treat them:

  • Trim your nails properly: Cut your toenails straight across and not too short.
  • Choose the right footwear: Wear shoes that fit well and give your toes space.
  • Maintain good foot hygiene: Keeping your feet clean and dry helps to prevent many foot problems, including ingrown toenails.

By understanding the causes, signs, and remedies for ingrown toenails, you can take proactive steps to manage and prevent this common foot issue. If you consistently suffer from ingrown toenails, or if they frequently become infected, it’s advisable to consult with a podiatrist.

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