Ingrown Toenails

An ingrown toenail occurs when the edge of the nail grows into the skin beside the nail. The ingrowing irritates the skin, causing pain and possibly infection. While any of your toenails has the potential to become ingrown, the problem is most common with the big toe.

Ingrown toenails happen to men and women of all ages. People are at a higher risk of experiencing ingrown toenails if their nails are not well groomed, are thickened, or if they are wearing ill-fitting shoes.



Cutting the Toenails Incorrectly

Your nails should remain well-groomed with a clean, sharp nail trimmer. Tapering or rounding the corners of the nail or cutting the nail too short may encourage the nail to grow into the skin. 

Having Naturally Irregular, Curved Toenails

Curved toenails tend to ingrow.

Ill-Fitting Shoes

Footwear that places a lot of pressure on the toes can cause the nail to grow inward. This includes socks and shoes that are too tight, too narrow, or too flat for your feet. Any shoe that crowds your toes can cause ingrown toenails.

Injury to the Toe & Nail

Stubbing your toe, dropping something heavy on your foot, or kicking a ball repeatedly can cause trauma, forcing the nail to grow into the skin.

Poor Foot Hygiene

Your feet should be cleaned every day and kept dry as much as possible. Increased sweating, dirt, and sock lint can cause nails to become infected and ingrow.


For some, the tendency to develop ingrown toenails is inherited, as part of your foot type or structure.

Participating in Athletic Activities With Extensive Foot Use 

If you put pressure on your nails for long periods of time, it can cause toenail damage. Activities like ballet, football, boxing, and soccer are some examples of activities that could cause this damage, increasing your risk.



Symptoms of ingrown toenails typically come in stages as it progresses and may include:

  • The skin around the nail becomes tender, swollen, or hard
  • Pain when pressure is applied to the toe or nail plate
  • Fluid or edema around the toe
  • Infection resulting in red, hot, painful, swollen skin
  • Bleeding or drainage from the toenail 
  • An overgrowth of skin around the toe near the ingrown toenail


Diagnosis & Treatment

Diagnosing ingrown toenails is relatively easy and treatment will provide instant relief. Clinical examination of the nail and surrounding skin following a history of the symptoms is usually enough for diagnosis. At times, x-rays are taken to determine any underlying bony pathology.

If your ingrown toenail shows signs of infection or refuses to resolve on its own, various treatment options are available. Most procedures are provided in the clinic. In some cases, surgical operating room procedures may be required.  

There are three main methods that doctors use to treat ingrown toenails.

Training the Nail

For mild cases, your doctor might simply instruct you to pull the skin from the edge of the nail when your foot is warm. This will retrain the nail to grow along the nail fold. 

Partial Removal of the Nail

For more severe ingrown toenails, your doctor might trim or remove the portion of the nail that is ingrown. This approach is effective for immediate pain relief. 

Removal of the Nail & Tissue

If the problem happens repeatedly on the same toe, your doctor might remove a part of the nail and the nail bed. This could prevent that portion of your nail from growing back.

If you have a foot injury or a condition that’s getting worse, don’t live with the pain.

Care for Ingrown Toenails at Keir Foot & Ankle Specialists

If you begin experiencing inflammation, swelling, pain, or discharge due to an ingrown toenail, make an appointment with us. We have helped many patients in Chicago, Blue Island, Oak Lawn, and Evergreen Park who trust our foot and ankle experts to provide top-quality care when they experience ingrown toenails.

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