When an Ingrown Toenail Requires Help From Your Podiatrist

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How did I get an ingrown toenail?

Normally, your toenails grow straight out from your nail bed. If the front edge or side of your toenail curves in and grows into your skin, you have an ingrown toenail.

An ingrown toenail may develop from many causes, including:

  • Trimming your toenails too short
  • Wearing shoes that pinch or cramp your toes
  • Trauma to the toenail (dropping items on feet, stubbing your toe)
  • Underlying nail condition (fungal infection)
  • Genetics
  • Congenital defects (nail is too large for the nail bed)

The painful toenail condition may affect any of your toes, but most often affects the big toe.

The early signs and symptoms of an ingrown toenail

Your initial ingrown toenail symptoms may be mild, causing a twinge of discomfort when you move or squeeze the affected toenail. You may dismiss these symptoms, but early recognition and treatment at this stage may prevent further health complications.

We recommend at-home treatments, such as:

  • Soaking your toes in warm water up to four times a day
  • Massaging the affected toe to reduce inflammation
  • Keeping your feet and toes dry
  • Wearing comfortable, roomy shoes
  • Over-the-counter pain relievers

Whatever you do, don’t attempt any “bathroom surgery.” What we mean is, don’t cut your nail or nailbed in an attempt to restore normal growth of your toenail.

When your ingrown toenail needs help from your podiatrist

If your ingrown toenail fails to improve within 2-3 days of at-home care or your symptoms worsen, you need to contact us so we can help. You also need podiatric intervention if your ingrown toenail is infected.

Signs and symptoms of an infection include:

  • Redness and swelling
  • Throbbing
  • Feeling pressure under the nail
  • Warm to the touch
  • Foul-smelling
  • Draining fluid or pus

If you have diabetes or another medical condition that reduces circulation in your feet, you’re more prone to developing infections. In such cases, we recommend you skip the at-home care and come in to see us as soon as you develop any signs or symptoms of an ingrown toenail.

Preventing an ingrown toenail

Though genetics may make you more prone to developing an ingrown toenail, improper nail trimming is the most common cause of ingrown toenails, according to the American College of Foot and Ankle Surgeons. You may be able to prevent an ingrown toenail by:

  • Clipping your toenails straight across to encourage a straight-out growing pattern
  • Checking your feet for ingrowing toenails
  • Trimming toenails before they get too long
  • Wearing shoes with a roomy toe to prevent crowding.


  1. It’s really helpful that you talked about how ingrown toenails can end up causing your feet to throb if you don’t handle them well. I can definitely see this being the case for my left foot since it seems to be growing a bit too large lately. I’ll go and seek some help from a podiatrist in the area immediately so they can assist me with preventing any problems.

  2. Luke Smith says:

    It’s nice that you talked about how you need podiatric intervention if your ingrown toenail is infected. I was talking with my brother earlier and he was complaining a bit about a discomfort coming from one of his toes. It might be due to an ingrown toenail, so I think he should ask for a non-surgical permanent ingrown toenail treatment.

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