Ingrown toenails are nails that grow into the skin instead of on top of it. While they can occur on any toe, they most frequently occur on the big toe. Ingrown toenails are typically very painful, with pain increasing when wearing shoes, walking, or otherwise placing pressure on the foot and the toes.
Ingrown toenails turn inward toward the side of the nail bed and put pressure on the skin, causing pain and sometimes infection. Ingrown nails often develop as a result of ill-fitting shoes or when toenails are trimmed into a curved shape instead of being trimmed straight across.
Incorrect nail trimming is one of the most common causes of ingrown toenails. You should always cut your toenails straight across and not curved to the shape of the toe. The straight across cut prevents the edges of the nail from burrowing into the skin. Other common causes of ingrown toenails include wearing poorly fitting shoes, especially those that squeeze the toes, like pointy shoes. Patients with thick nails or nails that tend to curve inward have a higher risk of developing ingrown toenails. If left untreated, the area around the nail can become infected, resulting in pain and inflammation
Mildly ingrown nails are treated with removal of the offending nail border to relieve pain. The doctor may prescribe antibiotics if the toe has become infected. The most common treatment for ingrown toenails involves injecting a local anesthetic into the toe and then removing the portion of the nail that has become ingrown. Once the nail portion is removed, a special chemical is applied to prevent the ingrown portion from growing back. The procedure requires no incisions or stitches, and patients typically continue to wear their normal shoes as the toe heals. More severe cases may require removal of the entire nail to allow the area to heal and to help treat any existing infection.