Ingrown Toenail, Causes, Symptoms, Home Remedies

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An ingrown toenail is a common occurrence, especially in athletes. It is often unpleasant and mostly occurs on the big toe. With this condition, the corner or side of the nail grows into the soft flesh. This may result in pain, redness, swelling and in rare case an infection.

For minor cases, you can simply treat and ease the symptoms at home with simple remedies. For serious cases, however, your healthcare provider will help relieve the pain and minimize the risks of complications or spreading the infection.

This article offers an insight into:

  • What causes ingrown toenail and ingrown fingernail
  • Common symptoms of an ingrown nail
  • How to spot an infected ingrown nail and
  • How to treat and relieve the symptoms of this condition

What causes ingrown toenail

Ingrown nail is quite common especially for athletes and people with diabetes. You are also at an increased risk of having this condition when suffering from a condition that causes poor blood flow to your feet.

So what really causes an ingrown toenail? In most of the cases, an ingrown toenail will occur when the side of the toenail grows into the surrounding skin.

The nail curls and pierces the skin which causes it to become red, tender and swollen.

According to NHS, an ingrown toenail is likely to be caused by any of the following:

  1. Wearing ill-fitting shoe or soaks that places pressure on the skin around your toe. The pressure may pierce you toenail causing an ingrown toenail.
  2. cutting your toenail too short or close to the edge encourages the skin to fold over the nail, this may cause the nail to grow into the skin forming an ingrown nail
  3. An injury such as stubbing your toe can also lead to the formation of an ingrown nail
  4. For those with sweaty feet, the ingrown nail can simply occur since the skin is around the toe is soft which makes it easy for your nail to piece it and embed itself within it thus forming an ingrown toenail
  5. In some cases, the natural shape of the nail may increase the chances of having an ingrown nail. Fungal infection such as athlete’s feet may alter the normal shape of your nail thus increasing your chances of having an ingrown toenail.

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Ingrown toenail symptoms

An ingrown nail is a common problem that can affect anybody though common in people with diabetes and those with conditions that affect blood flow to the feet. The big toes are the most commonly affected.

With an ingrown toenail, you are likely to notice the following symptoms:

  • Severe pain when little pressure is placed on the toe
  • Bleeding and buildup of white or yellow pus
  • Mild inflammation of the skin at the end of the end of the affected toe
  • Overgrowth of the skin around the toe
  • Tenderness on sides of the affected toe
  • Redness around the toenail
  • Infection of tissue around the affected toe

Even without the above symptoms, you need to see a foot care specialist if the affected nail is badly inflamed, bleeding or discharges foul-smelling pus. These are possible signs of an underlying infection that can be serious when left untreated.

Ingrown toenail pain

In most of the cases, the big toe is often affected this can occur on one or on both of the toes. As mentioned ingrown toenail is common in people with diabetes and in those with conditions that cause’s poor blood flow especially to feet.

The pain will often vary from mild to severe. This is often a sign that you need to see your health care provider as soon as possible. Left untreated an ingrown toenail can infect the underlying bone which might lead to serious bone infection.

Ingrown nail complications are more severe in people with diabetes. Complications will include:

  • Poor blood flow
  • Damage nerves to your feet and
  • Foot injuries may take longer to heal

NOTE: if you are experiencing severe discomfort or pain in your toe or pus start coming out or your toe turns red and seems to be spreading, you need to see your doctor as soon as possible to reduce the risk of serious complications.

Ingrown toenail infection

You are likely to develop an infection with an ingrown toenail. An infection will often start at the site where the nail cuts into the skin.

An infected ingrown nail often turns red, becomes sores, swollen and will often accumulate blood or pus along the side of the nail.

Under no circumstance should you ignore an infected toenail. Doing that might lead to a serious and unwanted complication that could be simply avoided.

The National Institute of Health notes that an infected ingrown nail in people with diabetes, poor circulation or those with nerve damage should be treated as soon as possible.

Regular ingrown nail, on the other hand, can simply be treated at how according to Mayo clinic. The redness and soreness can be managed at home by:

  • soaking your feet in warm water
  • removing the nail spike from your toe and
  • applying an antibiotic cream

How to treat ingrown toenail infection

According to WebMD, most ingrown nail problems can be prevented with popper personal growing and by simply wearing proper and better fitting shoes.  This simply involves trying to reduce pressure on the toe, and not trimming the corners of the nail.

Once you notice an infection, the best thing is to see you doctor as soon as possible for him or her to prescribe the best treatment option. There are also some effective over the counter antibiotics creams you can use.

For a severely ingrown nail, your doctor will often recommend partial removal. This is because unless the ingrown pierce of the nail is removed the infection will often persist.

Depending on the severity of the infection, your doctor may recommend any of the following options:

a) Partial nail avulsion to remove part of the nail

This is an effective and commonly used procedure used to treat ingrown toenails. A local anesthetic is used to numb the affected toe before the edge of the toenail is cut away.

After this, your doctor applies phenol to the area to prevent the nail from growing back and becoming ingrown again. In cases of an infection, a course of antibiotics may be prescribed.

b) Total nail avulsion to remove the whole toenail

Total nail avulsion is recommended in cases where the nail is thick and pressing into the skin that surrounds your toe.

After the procedure, you will end up with an indentation where your nail used to be, remember it is perfectly safe for one to not have a toenail.

How to treat ingrown toenail at home, naturally with remedies  

Mild cases of an ingrown nail are common and can in most of the cases be treated with simple home remedies. Here are some of the effective, simple options you can use to properly get rid of on an ingrown toenail.

1. Warm water soak

At home, an easy way to relieve pain and swelling associated with an ingrown toenail is by soaking your feet in warm, soapy water. All you need is warm water, castile soap and some tablespoons of Epsom salt for additional relief.

2. Wear proper fitting shoe

With an ingrown toenail, you will need to wear comfortable shoes. Shoes that are too tight crowd your toe and worsen the symptoms.

Wear shoes that fit but still leave ample space on the toe bed. You could also wear sandals to limit the pressure.

3. Try toe protector

To relieve the pain, you can use a toe protector to cushion the ingrown nail. These protectors are available as rings that fit around the affected area or the entire toe. You will need to use the protector until the condition clears.

4. Essential oils to relieve pain and swelling

You can also treat an ingrown toenail with essential oils.  You can simply prepare the oil by blending a combination of tea tree oil, clove, lavender, and rosemary with a carrier oil such as coconut oil.

Use the resulting oil to gently massage the affected area to relieve the pain and speed up the healing process.

5. Apple cider vinegar

Soaking your feet in apple cider solution or simply apply few drops of these remedy to the affected toe can be a great way to relieve the pain, reduce inflammation and get rid of an ingrown toenail.

Apple cider vinegar is said to be a great antiseptic, anti-inflammatory and pain relieving remedy. To use this home remedy, you will need to:

  • prepare a basin of warm water
  • into it add ¼ cup of ACV
  • soak your feet in this solution for 20 minutes
  • do this at least twice a day

How to get rid of an ingrown toenail fast

To relieve and get rid of pain, swelling and redness fast, you can try the following options.

6. Over-the-counter painkillers

An ingrown toenail can be very painful thus causing lots of discomforts. To relieve and get rid of the pain fast, you can try some effective over the counter pain relievers.

Unless you take more than the recommended amount side effects are unusual.

7. Oral and ointment antibiotics

In cases of an infection, antibiotics may be used to try and clear the infection. Your doctor is likely to prescribe an oral antibiotic if he or she notices any of the following symptoms:

  • increased redness on the affected nail
  • throbbing pain
  • severe swelling
  • foul-smelling pus
  • warmth and tenderness

8. Nail removal

In some cases, the best way to speed up the healing process is partial or full removal of the affected nail. Here your doctor may remove part of the nail border, the underlying nail bed or part of the nail plate. Removing the entre ingrown nail is often the last resort especially in recurring cases.

How to prevent ingrown toenail

Ingrown nail is a common problem that can be prevented by simply taking care of your feet. Taking care of your feet will involve:

  • Regularly washing, and keeping them clean and dry to prevent fungal infections
  • When doing that, you can use a foot filler or pumice stone to remove dead skin cells
  • Ensure you wear properly fitting shoes and make sure to regularly change both your shoes and soaks
  • You can also wear protective footwear especially when your work puts you at risk of foot injuries
  • Also, make sure to cut your nails properly. You need to cut them straight across, and not at an angle or down the edges
  • Visit a podiatrist (surgical treatment of condition affecting the foot, ankle and related lower extremity) anytime you notice some problems with your feet


  1. Medicine net, ingrown toenail (Onchocryptosis): https://www.medicinenet.com/ingrown_toenail/article.htm
  2. Health line, effective remedies to get rid of ingrown toenail: https://www.healthline.com/health/ingrown-toenail-remedies
  3. Health line, what causes ingrown toenails? https://www.healthline.com/health/ingrown-toenail
  4. Medical news today, what to do about an ingrown toenail: https://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/166268.php
  5. NHS choices, Ingrown toenail causes & treatment: https://www.nhs.uk/conditions/ingrown-toenail/
  6. Livestrong, How do you know an ingrown nail is infected: https://www.livestrong.com/article/150592-how-do-i-know-if-i-have-an-ingrown-toenail-infection/


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