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An ingrown toenail—also referred to as onychocryptosis—is a common problem that occurs when the edges or corners of the nail grow into the skin next to the nail. When this happens, the edge of the nail breaks through the skin, which causes inflammation. This inflammation initially presents itself as a minor discomfort, but it could potentially become a recurring problem or become infected

Causes of Ingrown Toenails

This condition is quite common—especially in athletes—and it is mostly found in the big toe. Anyone can get an ingrown toenail, and they are common for both men and women. The most common causes of an ingrown toenail include:

  • Poor hygiene
  • Irregular, curved nails
  • Poor-fitting footwear
  • Trauma
  • Poor posture
  • Cutting toenails incorrectly

Symptoms of Ingrown Toenails

Ingrown toenails can cause no pain at all, or they can be very painful—it depends on the severity and cause of the condition. The most common symptoms of an ingrown toenail include:

  • Pain and tenderness along the side of the toenail
  • Redness around the toenail
  • Swelling in your toe
  • Pus draining from the area

Most of these symptoms do not require medical attention, but you should see a doctor if you experience extreme discomfort in your toe or if you have diabetes or any other conditions that cause poor circulation to your feet.

Diagnosis and Treatment of Ingrown Toenails

Your doctor can diagnose your toe with a physical exam. He or she may also perform an x-ray if the ingrown toenail was caused by an injury, or to show how deep the nail is. If you have an ingrown toenail that is not infected, it can probably be treated at home with various home remedies. Some of these include:

  • Soaking feet
  • Pushing skin away from the toenail edge
  • Using OTC medications
  • Applying topical ointments to prevent infection

If your ingrown toenail has progressed and become infected, your podiatrist may recommend surgery. Surgery involves removing either all or half of the toenail in an effort to stop the infection altogether. Contact your podiatrist for more information about ingrown toenail treatment today.