An ingrown toenail is a nail that’s begun to grow into the soft tissue at the edge of the nail bed. Ingrown toenails can cause considerable pain as they grow, as well as swelling and redness in the tissue around your nail. Symptoms are worse when pressure is placed on the toe.
Without treatment, your nail can push through the skin, exposing the area to an infection, which can eventually spread to the rest of your toe and even into your foot. The risk of infection is especially high among people with diabetes and other issues that affect:
Ingrown toenails can occur on any toe, but they almost exclusively form on the big toe, usually as a result of pressure from ill-fitting shoes. Trimming nails improperly can also increase the risk of developing an ingrown toenail.
Ingrown toenails can form as a result of injury to the toe or foot, but most commonly, they occur for two reasons:
Shoes that are too narrow or tight in the toes, shoes that are too small lengthwise, and long-term use of high heels that force the toes downward into the toe portion of the shoe are all likely to cause ingrown toenails as your nails are pressed more closely into the surrounding skin. Nails that are trimmed in a curved shape and nails that are trimmed very short also are more likely to become ingrown compared to toenails that are trimmed straight across.
If you have nails that are very curved or thick, you’re also more likely to suffer from ingrown toenails.
Some mildly ingrown nails can be treated by gently lifting the edge of the nail and inserting a piece of sterile gauze to encourage the nail to grow above the skin and to enable the injured area to heal. More often, your provider will need to remove the ingrown portion of your toenail, and if infection is present, possibly the entire nail.
Colorado Foot + Ankle Sports Medicine performs nail removal using a local anesthetic to completely numb your toe. Procedures typically take less than 10 minutes and usually require no stitches or cumbersome bandages. In fact, you’ll probably be able to wear your regular shoes while the area heals. After the nail is removed, your provider may apply a special solution to prevent the nail from growing back into the skin.
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