Ingrown Toenail

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What Is An Ingrown Toenail?

An ingrown toenail (also known as “onychocryptosis”) is a common condition.  As the name applies, it occurs when the sides or edges of the toenail grow into the skin. As the nail pierces the skin, it can cause bleeding, redness and pain.  If left untreated, the ingrown toenail can get infected.

Anyone can get an ingrown toenail.  They occur most often on the big toe.


What Are The Symptoms Of An Ingrown Toenail?

The most common symptoms of an ingrown toenail are:

  • Pain, irritation and sensitivity along the side(s) of your toenail
  • Redness around your toenail
  • Swelling of the tissue around your toenail
  • Bleeding at the side(s) of the toenail.

Shoes that put pressure on the toenail can worsen these symptoms.

If pain and redness is accompanied by pus, this can mean the toenail is infected.  You should seek medical attention from a doctor or foot specialist if you think you have an infected toenail.


What Causes Ingrown Toenails?

Common causes of ingrown toenails are:

  • Cutting toenails incorrectly: Toenails should be cut straight across. Cutting the nail too short or angling the toenails on the sides can encourage an ingrown toenail to form. This is the most common cause of ingrown toenails.
  • Poorly fitting shoes:  Shoes that squeeze and put pressure on the toes can encourage ingrown toenails.
  • Injury to the nail bed:  This can include a broken or cracked toenail, stubbing your toe or dropping something heavy on your toe that pushes the nail inward.
  • Biomechanical irregularities: Your gait (the way you walk) can make you more prone to ingrown toenails by placing excess pressure on your toes when you move.
  • Misshapen or involuted toenails: Toenails have an ideal shape and growth pattern. However, if your toenails are misshapen or curved (involuted), they will grow abnormally and often become ingrown.
  • genetic predisposition to ingrown toenails


How Do I Treat An Ingrown Toenail?

An ingrown toenail can sometimes be treated at home in its early stages (i.e.: if it’s just irritated, but not infected or painful). It can also be effectively treated in-clinic by a chiropodist or foot specialist.  You should immediately see a foot specialist for treatment if you have any of the following:

  • Signs of infection (i.e.: pus, redness and protruding skin at the sides of the nail)
  • Diabetes or any other medical condition that may cause complications.
  • Bleeding.
  • Pain and irritation
  • The ingrown toenail has pierced the skin
  • The ingrown toenail has persisted for a while or does not respond to home remedies
  • Redness around the edges of the nailbed

The best way to treat ingrown toenails is to be proactive and start treatment at the first signs of discomfort. Putting off treatment can make the issue worse, and even lead to infection and complications.

Home Remedies (for mild cases in the early stages):

To treat your ingrown toenail at home:

  • Soak the foot in a saltwater bath two to three times a day for 15 minutes.
  • Massage and gently push the skin at the sides away from the nail.
  • Dry your feet thoroughly afterwards
  • Apply a topical antibiotic, like Neosporin or Polysporin, to prevent infection.
  • Wear shoes with a wide toe box that lets the toes move freely. Opt for open-toe shoes if possible.
  • Let the toenail grow out; when it does, cut it straight across – do not round or angle the corners of the toenail.

If the toenail isn’t better after 3 – 5 days, it’s time to call the foot specialist.

In-Clinic Treatment by a Foot Specialist

A chiropodist at our foot clinic can quickly and easily treat ingrown toenails at any stage.  Treatment can involve:

  • Antibiotics:  Oral or antibiotic ointment is applied to prevent or heal infection.
  • Softening the skin and lifting the edge of the nail from the skin, and then propping the corner of the nail up over the skin edge until the skin heals.
  • Removing or cutting open infected areas to allow the pus to drain (the toe can be numbed first with a local anesthetic).
  • Onyfix Nail Correction System: An innovative, non-invasive treatment where a composite band is applied across the nail. The band trains the nail to grow straight as opposed to curved – almost like a nail brace (but without the wires).
  • Partial or Total Nail Avulsion: This involves partial or total removal of the affected toenail. It is performed in cases of chronic ingrown toenails that don’t respond to other treatment.
  • Phenol:  This is a chemical that is applied to the area beneath the cuticle to prevent nail regrowth. It is often used during nail surgery

See our Ingrown Toenail Treatment Services page for more information on how we can treat your ingrown toenails.

While waiting for an appointment with a chiropodist to treat an infected ingrown toenail, the following may help to manage the infection and reduce pain:

  • Foot soaks in (Epsom) salt water bath
  • Gently clean the area of pus and blood
  • Apply sparing amounts of Polysporin ointment and cover with a bandage when going out
  • Wear shoes with a wide toe box to reduce pressures
  • Avoid injury and participation in sport activity which may exacerbate the problem (i.e.: running, soccer)
  • Do not cut the toenail yourself: This can make the problem worse and make it more difficult for the chiropodist to treat conservatively. Similarly, we recommend not getting the toenail cut at a salon as this can lead to infection and cause further complications.
To book an appointment to treat your ingrown toenail, click the “Book Appointment” above or call us at 416-769-FEET (3338) – no referral needed!

Risk Factors

Risk factors for developing ingrown toenails are:

  • Cutting toenails incorrectly: Cutting the toenails too short or angled at the sides increases the risk of developing ingrown toenails.
  • Tight-fitting footwear:  Footwear that is too narrow and places pressure on the toes make you more vulnerable to ingrown toenails.  This also applies to socks and stockings.
  • Misshapen or involuted toenails
  • Poor biomechanics that cause excessive pressure on the toes.
  • Genetic predisposition
  • Activities that involve repeated pressure on the toes, such as soccer, ballet, kickboxing or running.


How Do I Prevent An Ingrown Toenail?

There are many ways to effectively prevent or reduce your risk for developing ingrown toenails.  They include:

  • Proper toenail care and foot hygiene: Cut your toenails straight across and make sure you don’t leave any stray pieces at the edge.  Try not to cut them too short.  Also keep your feet clean and dry.
  • medical pedicure by a chiropodist:  This is a great option to prevent ingrown toenails, especially if you are genetically predisposed or do activities that increase your risk.  A medical pedicure is performed by a trained foot care specialist, and is more effective at preventing ingrown toenails and other foot conditions than a cosmetic pedicure.  Best of all, you get to pamper and treat yourself, while keeping your feet and toenails healthy.  Click here for more information about the difference between a medical and cosmetic pedicure.  
  • Wear proper footwear:  Wear low-heeled shoes that provide enough room for your toes to move around freely.  Check out our online store (coming soon) or Toronto foot clinic for some great options.  A foot specialist at our clinic can also help you find shoes that fit properly while encouraging healthy pain-free movement.
  • Shoe-stretching:  If your existing shoes are too tight, but you don’t want to buy a new pair, our clinic can stretch them so that they fit your toes properly.
  • Correcting any biomechanical concerns: foot assessment by a chiropodist can diagnose and address any biomechanical issues that are causing excessive pressure on the toes.

Our Toronto Foot Clinic offers many great services and products for preventing and treating ingrown toenails.  To book an appointment, click the “Book Appointment” button above, or call us at 416-769-FEET (3338).  We are open Mondays to Saturdays and alternating Sundays.

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Carolina Charles

Patient Relation Coordinator (She/Her)

If you’ve been to the clinic before, chances are you had the pleasure of meeting Carolina! Carolina’s daily goal is going above and beyond to make sure patients are always completely satisfied. Having worked in the podiatry industry for 22 years, Carolina brings a wealth of knowledge pertaining to client service, insurance policies, and procedures. She steers the ship to make sure everything runs smoothly on the daily. Carolina is known for spicing up every outfit with her signature costume jewellery.