Ingrown Toenails

What is an Ingrown Toenail?

Ingrown toenails are caused by pressure from the inward growth of the nail edge into the skin of the toe. Initial minor discomfort may lead to inflammation and infection if the edge of the nail breaks through the skin. This can become a recurring problem.


The large toes are most commonly affected, but any toe can become ingrown. Signs and symptoms include redness, pain and swelling. A clear, yellowish liquid may also drain from the infected area. If the toe is infected, this will become a pus discharge.

How to prevent Ingrown Toenails

The most common cause of ingrown toenails is incorrect trimming. Trauma, such as stubbing the toe or having it stepped on can also cause a piece of nail to jam into the skin.

To prevent ingrown toenails from occurring you should:

  • Properly trim toenails: cut toenails in a fairly straight line, but don’t cut them too short. You should be able to get your fingernail under the sides and end of the nail.
  • Wear well-fitted shoes and socks: don’t wear shoes that are short or tight in the toe area. Also avoid shoes that are loose, because they can cause pressure on the toes, especially when running or walking briskly.

Non-Surgical Treatment Options

For mild cases or if the ingrown toenail has no infection, you can soak your foot in room temperature water (adding Epsom’s salt may be recommended by your GP). Gently massage the side of the nail fold to help reduce the inflammation.

Avoid “bathroom surgery”. Repeated cutting of the nail can cause the condition to worsen over time. If your symptoms do not improve it is time for you to see a foot and ankle surgeon.

When will surgery be needed?

The need for surgery depends on the severity of the ingrown toenail.

Occasionally, ingrown toenails will resolve themselves. However, if you experience pain and the symptoms are persistent and recurring, you should see a podiatrist or orthopaedic surgeon.