Ingrown TOenails

What Does It Mean to Have an Ingrown Toenail?

If your toe is red and sore, it could be the fault of your nail digging into the surrounding flesh. This is what’s referred to as an ingrown toenail and it can be quite painful. While this is not dangerous, if left unmanaged, it can lead to more serious complications.

When a nail becomes ingrown, it means the nail has punctured the skin and—literally—grown into it. This condition most commonly occurs in the big toe and can cause pain and discomfort.


When you press gently on your toenail, do you experience tenderness? Is your toe painful and inflamed? This could indicate improper nail growth. Additionally, check to see if your toe area is red. The swelling of this condition often causes the skin to become discolored or abnormal in appearance. You may find it difficult to walk or wear shoes.

Why Does it Happen?

There are many reasons why people have ingrown toenails. For some, they are a side effect of another disease or foot condition. For example, diabetes can effect your feet in a variety of ways, including the nails. Other people are simply genetically inclined to inherit naturally thicker and curved toenails, which are more prone to growing inward.

Injury to the area can also spur improper growth. Stubbing your toenail on loose pavement, for instance, can put you at risk. Jamming your foot in a door is another example that can pose nail problems. Leaving the injury untreated can cause further harm down the road.

As with bunions, hammer toes, and other foot conditions, improper footwear attributes to ingrown toenails as well. If shoes are too-tight or ill-fitting, you increase your chances of the nail going awry.

This is also true with tights, stockings, and socks. Just as with your shoes, you want to make sure that the fit feels good and doesn’t compress or smash your feet.

Lastly, incorrect grooming of the nails can also contribute to the problem. Contrary to popular belief, ingrown nails are not created by neglect of personal hygiene—just a misunderstanding of proper protocol. Trimming your nails too short or filing them can result in the condition, as well as following the curve—trimming straight across is best.

Possible Complications

While most ingrown toenails can be treated effectively at-home or in a doctor’s office, if left unchecked they can wreak havoc on your feet. Allowing the nail to continue growing can actually alter the tissue of the skin and even change it permanently.

Swelling and inflammation can interrupt a normal lifestyle, preventing you from walking, standing or even driving comfortably. This can lead to difficulty and hindrances at work, and at play, for many of us.

The most dangerous complication is infection. Infection leaves the body open to attack from bacteria, fungus, and other dangers. If the area becomes infected, the possibility of it spreading creates further harm.


One way to prevent ingrown nails is to keep tabs on your feet. If you have diabetes or circulatory issues, work to ensure you are taking every measure to control your disease. This will automatically assist in combating symptoms in the toes.

If you trim your own nails, make sure you keep them at the right length. You want your toe to be covered, but without unnecessary excess. When visiting a salon, ask the pedicurist to avoid filing your nail in a rounded shape, as this also increases ingrowth possibility.

What to do if You Suffer From This Condition:

At home treatments are usually sufficient in eliminating ingrown toe nails. However, if yours persist, you may elect to have the nail lifted or removed in a medical office. To find out more about these procedures, or if you have questions, contact Dr. Victoria Melhuish at Sierra Foot and Ankle in Carson City, Nevada. Ingrown toenails don’t have to plague your life. Call (775) 783-8037 for help today.

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