The 101 On Ingrown Toenails

Regular exercise, a well-balanced diet, and regular checkups by your doctor are important tasks for a healthy lifestyle. Unfortunately, you may still develop conditions even when living a healthy lifestyle. While it may surprise you, an estimated 75 percent of Americans will develop conditions that affect foot health. Ingrown toenails are issues that can easily develop, causing a great deal of pain and discomfort, but you may not be familiar with this common foot condition. With this guide, you will have a better understanding of the development, preventive options, and treatments for ingrown toenails.

The Development

The nails on your toes should grow straight out and above the skin. If the nail grows down into the skin, it is ingrown. In some cases, the skin around the toe may grow up and over the nail. This causes the nail to become embedded in the skin, resulting in a painful ingrown toenail. The issue can affect any toenail on your foot, but it is most common on the big toe due to its larger nail size.

The visible signs of an ingrown nail should be obvious, since you will see the skin growing over the nail. However, you may also notice the following signs on the affected toe:

  • Pain and tenderness
  • Swelling
  • Difficulty walking or placing pressure on the toe

Without treatment, the ingrown nail may become infected. If you are experiencing the following symptoms, you most likely are suffering from an infection:

  • Severe pain
  • Redness around nail
  • Light bleeding
  • Oozing fluid/pus
  • Fever


Living with an ingrown nail is possible, but it can be painful. In addition, it can become dangerous if the ingrown nail develops an infection. Fortunately, preventing this painful condition is possible.

Learning how to trim your toenails properly is essential. To prevent the nails from growing into your skin, use sharp clippers to trim straight across the nails. Many people try to curve the nail's edge with the clippers, but this increases the risk of developing an ingrown nail.

Also, avoid trimming the nails too short, since this may increase pressure on the nail from your shoes. Your toenails should be even with the tips of your toes. You can also reduce pressure on your toenails by wearing shoes that fit properly. There should be 3/8" to 1/2" of space between the tip of your longest toe and the shoe.

Treatment Options

Treatment options to correct the ingrown nail will depend on the severity of the condition.

Minor ingrown nails can be corrected at home by soaking the foot in a tub of warm water and Epsom salt. Epsom salt is a natural mineral that is effective for reducing inflammation and swelling while relieving the pain of your ingrown nail.

To use, fill a tub with warm water and add a cup of Epsom salts. Place your foot with the affected nail into the tub and soak it for 10 to 15 minutes. Be sure to soak the foot for a few days to allow the salts time to soften the nail, helping it grow in a more normal position.

If soaking your foot for a few days does not correct the nail, consult a podiatrist for further evaluation. This foot specialist can quickly alleviate the pain by lifting the nail. A piece of cotton or a splint is then placed under the nail to prop it up off of the skin, allowing it to grow normally.

Chronic ingrown nails are also common. If you continue to develop ingrown nails on the same toe, your podiatrist will recommended removing a portion of the nail and underlying tissue. This will prevent the problematic part of the nail from growing back into the abnormal, ingrown position.

An ingrown nail is not a life-threatening condition, but the pain and discomfort caused by this problem can affect your daily life. Using this guide and the help of a doctor, such as those at Foot First Podiatry Centers, you will understand how they develop and learn the best options to prevent and correct an ingrown toenail.