Ingrown Toenails: Symptoms, Causes, Prevention and Treatment

If you’ve ever had an ingrown toenail, then you know how painful and uncomfortable it can be. From making it difficult to walk, exercise, or even put on shoes, an ingrown toenail can be a pain in your toe – literally! Although anyone can experience an ingrown toenail, people with thick nails are more susceptible.

What is an ingrown toenail anyway?Evanston Podiatrist

An ingrown toenail occurs when the toenail grows towards the skin and into it as opposed to over the skin – on either one or both sides of the toenail. The toenail curls into the side of the toe and digs its way into the skin, which can cause pain, swelling and sometimes, although more rarely, infection. It is most common for it to happen with toenails, although an ingrown nail can happen with fingernails too.

Symptoms of an ingrown toenail

Symptoms of an ingrown toenail typically include redness, pain, and swelling – tovarying degree. Sometimes an infection can occur if symptoms are left untreated for an extended amount of time. Additionally, if any pus is noticed around the affected nail, you should seek medical attention to avoid complications such as worsened swelling, pain, or infection.

What causes an ingrown nail?

Ingrown toenails can occur as a result of wearing shoes that don’t fit properly or support the foot sufficiently. They can also happen when feet are incorrectly groomed, for instance, cutting the toenail too short, at an angle, or trimming it to a rounded shape. Stubbing your toe or hurting it in some way can also cause an ingrown toenail. Anything that puts constant or severe pressure on the toenail will cause it to grow abnormally, which can result in an ingrown toenail. Not resolving the issue only exacerbates pain and swelling, which could lead to infection – so tending to it immediately is important. If you suffer from serious health conditions such as diabetes and heart-related problems, you should seek immediate assistance because an ingrown nail can cause other complications since you most likely suffer from poor circulation in general.

Treating an ingrown toenail

Since an ingrown toenail is not a serious concern, treatment is usually quite simple. Some common remedies include:

  1. Soaking the foot in apple cider vinegar. Fill a small washbasin with warm water and ¼ cup of apple cider vinegar. Using organic vinegar is even better. Soak the affected foot for up to twenty minutes, up to three times a day. ACV has anti-inflammatory and bacteria-fighting properties which are all great for an ingrown nail.
  2. Soaking the foot in warm water. If apple cider vinegar is not your thing, substituting it with castile soap or Epsom salt is another great alternative to bringing relief. Some essential oils can help as well, with a prior okay from your doctor. You can also try just water alone and see if that brings relief.
  3. Try a toe cushion. These can be found at the drugstore and a packet includes soft, foam toe cushions, special protective bandages and a solution to soften the nail so it alleviates pain and makes it easier to cut the toenail.
  4. Comfort. Comfort. For almost immediate relief from pain and swelling associated with an ingrown toenail, it’s important to wear comfortable shoes and socks. Shoes should have ample room in the front and socks should be made of a breathable material like cotton.


Sometimes it’s impossible to avoid an ingrown toenail, like when you stub your toe, but for the most part they can be prevented. Wear comfortable shoes if possible and remember to not over-trim your toenails (avoid clipping past the tip of your toe). If ingrown toenails are common in your case due to an existing fungal infection (symptoms include hardened, yellowish nails), treating the fungus will soften the toenails, making them easier to trim so they can grow properly.



To learn more about Chicago DPM, visit our About Us page or Contact Us Today!