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Do I Have An Ingrown Toenail?

You may be out walking or running errands when suddenly you feel a throbbing pain in your toe. The thought might not occur to you right away, but it could be a sign that you have an ingrown toenail.

Ingrown toenails are one of the most common foot conditions you’ll have to deal with. But what exactly causes an ingrown toenail? How can you tell what an ingrown nail looks like? There are many reasons a nail can grow into the skin. We’ll go over the potential cause and risks associated with ingrown toenails and treatment options: 

Ingrown Toenails

What Are Ingrown Toenails?

An ingrown toenail occurs when the corner of your nail begins to grow into the skin beside the nail. In most cases, the big toe is the most common appendage to get an ingrown toenail. 

Ingrown toenails can be treated at home but can also cause issues that might require further medical treatment. Anyone can get an ingrown toenail, although athletes, children, and those with diabetes are at a higher risk. 

How Do I Tell?

What Causes an Ingrown Toenail?

Anyone can get an ingrown toenail. However, the most common causes of ingrown toenails are due to how you trim your toenails and if you wear shoes that are too tight.  

There are many other potential causes for an ingrown toenail, such as:

  • Cutting toenails too short or at an angle that allows them to dig into the skin

  • Improper foot hygiene

  • Curved toenails

  • Ill-fitting footwear that adds pressure on your toes

  • A toenail injury, such as stubbing your toe or dropping something on it

  • Neglecting to trim your nails

In some cases, sports activities can increase the risk of getting ingrown toenails, especially if you have to repeatedly kick a ball or use your feet for prolonged periods. These sports activities can include:

  • Soccer

  • Football

  • Ballet

  • Kickboxing

How Do I Know if I Have an Ingrown Toenail?

You’ll be able to tell if you have an ingrown toenail if you notice swelling or redness next to the toenail. If you leave the toenail untreated, it could lead to an infection and other harmful conditions, such as toenail fungus. 

You can tell your toenail is infected by the following symptoms:

  • Pus draining from your toe

  • Bleeding of the affected area

  • Discolouration of the skin and/or nail

  • Toenail odour

  • Pain due to pressure on the toe

Treating your ingrown toenail as soon as possible can decrease the chance of symptoms worsening. 

How Are Ingrown Toenails Diagnosed? 

While you can determine whether or not you have an ingrown nail, a healthcare provider or Foot Specialist may also have your ingrown toenail diagnosed.

A Foot Specialist can examine your nails, especially the skin at the end of the nail. During their inspection, they’ll look out for any swelling, redness, or warmth from the affected area and at skin that’s growing over the nail. 

While a Podiatrist won’t need to use any x-rays to diagnose your ingrown toenail, they may take a tissue sample to rule out any infection. 

Complications of an Ingrown Toenail

Serious complications can form if you don’t treat your ingrown toenail as soon as possible. A toenail infection can spread to the bone in your toe, form ulcers and sores, and cause a loss of blood flow in the affected area. The possibility of skin decay is also common with more serious infections. 

Due to lack of blood flow and nerve sensitivity, an ingrown toenail can become infected. If you have diabetes, an infection in your foot is a serious matter. In some cases, one might have a genetic predisposition to ingrown toenails. Ingrown toenails can occur on any toe.

Treating an Ingrown Toenail

Home Treatment 

There are some treatment methods you can use on your ingrown toenail so it can heal properly. 

Treat your ingrown toenail using the following methods:

  • Soak your feet in warm water for 15-20 minutes about three or four times a day.

  • Use a cotton ball soaked in olive oil to push the skin away from the edge of the nail.

  • Use over-the-counter medications, such as acetaminophen for the pain.

  • Apply a topical antibiotic or a steroid cream to prevent nail infections.

  • Switch to shoes or sandals that offer space for your toes.

  • Gently lift the edge of the affected nail and place a piece of dental floss or cotton between the nail and skin.

Don’t try to cut the ingrown toenail yourself, as any attempt could worsen the state of the toe and cause an infection. If the home remedies don’t work and the pain becomes more severe, you may need to see a doctor. In some cases, you may need to seek medical treatment if the infected toenail is in bad shape.

Surgical Treatment 

Different types of surgery can treat an ingrown toenail, such as:

  • Partial nail removal: This surgery only requires the removal of the nail that’s digging into your toe. During this surgery, the sides of the nail are cut to ensure that the edges are straight. A piece of cotton will then be placed under what remains of the nail to ensure the ingrown toenail doesn’t return.

  • Total nail removal: This surgery is exactly as it sounds. If your ingrown toenail results in a fungal infection affecting the nail matrix, the entire nail will have to be removed. 

After surgery, keep your foot raised and keep pressure off of your affected toe. The bandage around your toe can be discarded after a couple of days. When the bandage comes off, you’ll most likely have to wear open-toed shoes and should do daily saltwater soaks. Any prescribed pain relievers or antibiotics will help manage the pain and prevent infection. 

If the toenail was partially removed, it should grow back in a few months. If the nail was completely removed, it could take up to a year and a half to grow back. 

Preventing an Ingrown Toenail

Prevention Methods

There are many methods you can utilize to prevent ingrown toenails or ingrown toenail infection. Some preventative measures are as follows:

  • Remember to cut your nails straight across and not angled.

  • Don’t cut your nails too short.

  • Keep your nail clippers clean.

  • Ensure your feet are clean and dry.

  • Cut your nails after a shower or warm water bath.

  • Choose footwear that fits comfortably and offers enough toe room.


Are you dealing with the painful struggles of ingrown toenails or any other foot conditions? Our foot clinic has a plethora of services and treatment options to assist you with your foot troubles. Call today and make an appointment with your trustworthy Toronto foot specialist.

PROFESSIONAL FOOT CLINIC

416-465-8737

Toronto, ON Chiropodist Academy Foot and Orthotic

752 BROADVIEW AVENUE Toronto, ON M4K 2P1 

Across from the Broadview Subway | Professional Family Foot Care