What is it?
- An ingrown toenail is a common condition in which the corner or side of one of your toenails grows into the soft flesh of that toe. The result is pain, redness, swelling and, sometimes, an infection. An ingrown toenail usually affects your big toe.
- Often, you can take care of ingrown toenails on your own. If the pain is severe or spreading, however, your doctor can take steps to relieve your discomfort and help you avoid complications of an ingrown toenail.
- If you have diabetes or another condition that causes poor circulation to your feet, you're at greater risk of complications from an ingrown toenail.
Signs and symptoms 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
Ingrown toenails result when the nail grows into the flesh of your toe, often the big toe. Common causes include:
- Wearing shoes that crowd your toenails
- Cutting your toenails too short or not straight across
- Injury to your toenail
- Unusually curved toenails
Left untreated or undetected, an ingrown toenail can infect the underlying bone and lead to a serious bone infection.
Complications can be especially severe if you have diabetes because the circulation and nerve supply to your feet can be impaired. Therefore, any relatively minor injury to your foot — cut, scrape, corn, callus or ingrown toenail — may not heal properly and lead to infection. A difficult-to-heal open sore (foot ulcer) may require surgery to prevent gangrene — the decay and death of tissue resulting from an interruption in blood flow to a certain area of your body.
Your doctor can usually diagnose an ingrown toenail based on your symptoms and a physical examination of your nail and the surrounding skin.