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What Are Ingrown Toenails?

What Are Ingrown Toenails?

Usually, ingrown toenails are minor irritations that are easy to deal with. But sometimes an ingrown toenail can lead to infection, major pain and in the worst case, health complications.

About ingrown toenails

A toenail that grows into the flesh that surrounds it can be described as ingrown. Often, ingrown toenails affect the big toe, although there are people that get multiple ingrown toenails.

A person will notice some discomfort or pain as the edge of the toenail grows into the toe. In some cases the toenail may break the skin, causing pain and infection.

Luckily, it is easy to treat an ingrown nail and healthy people have little to fear. Not so for people with health conditions like diabetes. Once the nail breaks the skin, a person with a weakened immune system may develop a foot ulcer. At worst, the foot ulcer could become gangrenous.

What causes ingrown toenails?

A common cause of an ingrown toenail is trauma or stress to the toes. Meaning that athletes, ballet dancers and people who wear tight shoes are more likely to suffer from an ingrown toenail.

People with lax foot hygiene who also sweat a lot are also at risk of developing ingrown toenails. Another way to trigger a toenail into growing into the toe is by cutting it too short or trying to shape its corners.

Old people are also more likely to have the problem because toenails thicken with age and thick toenails are more likely to become ingrown. People who have a family history of ingrown toenails are also likely to suffer from the problem.

Symptoms of ingrown toenails

In the early stages, a person will feel a little pressure. They will also feel a small amount of pain when they squeeze the affected toe. As the toenail continues to grow, the pressure will turn into pain.

Once the toenail breaks the skin, a person will likely develop an infection. They will notice one or more of the following symptoms:

An infection can lead to serious complications, so a person who observes any of the symptoms listed here should seek medical help.


Ingrown toenails can be treated at home. But when it causes an infection, it should be treated by a doctor. Also, diabetics who develop an ingrown nail should see a podiatrist or their doctor.

Can it be prevented?

An ingrown toenail can recur if its underlying cause is not dealt with. To keep from suffering a recurrence, a person can take measures like maintaining excellent foot hygiene and wearing shoes that fit just right. People at risk of dropping things on their feet should wear protective shoes. Athletes and ballet dancers should make a point of checking their feet regularly and, when possible, they should wear shoes that cushion their toes.

Keep an eye on your toenails to keep them in good shape

We do not usually pay our toes any mind until they start to cause us pain. That is when we realize how much we need our toes to walk and keep our balance. To keep from finding this out the hard way, we should take care of our toes every day and inspect them often.

This will help us catch ingrown toenails before they start to cause trouble. If it causes infection or other complications, come to our clinic for medical help.

Request an appointment here: or call Ambulatory Foot & Ankle Clinic at (208) 803-0010 for an appointment in our Pocatello office.

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