What is an ingrowing toenail?

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What is an ingrowing toenail? | Sutherland Podiatry Centre

When a toenail is ingrown, the nail is curved downward and “digging in”, often creating pain, redness, swelling, and warmth in the toe. If an ingrown nail causes a break in the skin, bacteria may enter and cause an infection in the area. We decided not to put a picture up of an ingrown toenail, because we didn’t want to spoil reading this article! 🙂


Causes of ingrown toenails include:

  • Heredity. In many people, the tendency for ingrown toenails is inherited.
  • Trauma. such as stubbing your toe, having an object fall on your toe or engaging in activities that involve repeated pressure on the toes, such as kicking or running.
  • Improper trimming. The most common cause of ingrown toenails is cutting your nails too short. This encourages the skin next to the nail to fold over the nail.
  • Improperly sized footwear. Ingrown toenails can result from wearing socks and shoes that are tight or short.
  • Nail conditions. Ingrown toenails can be caused by nail problems, such as fungal infections or losing a nail due to trauma.
  • Medications. Medications such as acne medication have been linked to ingrowing toenails.


Sometimes initial treatment for ingrown toenails can be safely performed at home. However, home treatment is strongly discouraged if you suspect you have an infection, or if you have a medical condition that puts your feet at high risk—for example, diabetes, nerve damage in the foot, or poor circulation.

Home care:

If you don’t have an infection or any of the above conditions, you can soak your foot in room-temperature water with Epsom’s salt and gently massage the side of the nail fold to help reduce the inflammation. Avoid attempting “bathroom surgery.” Repeated cutting of the nail can cause the condition to worsen over time. If your symptoms fail to improve, it’s time to see a podiatrist.

Podiatric care for ingrowing toenails

Podiatrists are highly qualified in dealing with ingrowing toenails. Conservative treatments can include clearing the offending nail. If the toe is infected a referral to your GP for antibiotic therapy may be required.

For recurring ingrown toenails or ingrown toenails which continually get infected, a minor surgical procedure done in a clinical setting may be required. This procedure is known as a partial nail avulsion and may be required for a more permanent solution. This is where the nail is cleared under local anaesthesia and a chemical is used to kill the offending nail after it is cleared so it no longer grows back leaving a nice, straight nail edge.

Preventing Ingrown Toenails

Below are some handy hints to prevent ingrowing toenails from occurring:

  • Trim your nails properly. Cut your toenails in a fairly straight line, and don’t cut them too short. You should be able to get your fingernail under the sides and end of the nail.
  • Use a nail file to prevent jagged edges and create a smooth, rounded edge.
  • Avoid poorly-fitting shoes. Avoid shoes that are short or tight in the toe box. Also avoid shoes that are loose, because they too cause pressure on the toes, especially when walking or running.
  • Regular podiatry foot care. Patients with mobility, flexibility problems or thickened nails may benefit from foot care performed by a podiatrist on a regular basis.

If you need help in this area, please don’t hesitate to reach out and contact us on 9542 3491.

The Team from Sutherland Podiatry Centre

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