What Causes Ingrown Toenails?


A very common and very painful podiatric problem is ingrown toenails. These occur when the corner of the nail curves and grows back into the flesh around the toenail. The big toe is the most common site of an ingrown toenail but it can occur on other toes as well. At New York Foot Health we want patients to be informed about this condition and its causes, as well as the best ways to treat it.

Ingrown toenails have a number of possible sources:

Activities—if you are a runner or soccer player or participate in another fitness activity that results in repetitive banging of your toes up against the front of your shoes this can result in a higher incidence of ingrown toenails.

Footwear—frequently wearing shoes with narrow toe boxes or tight socks or hose that force toes together can increase the risk of a toenail growing inward.

Improper trimming techniques—if you overly round the edges of your nails with clippers or a nail file this may encourage them to grow downward rather than straight out. Never tear or rip the edges of your nails off as this will also leave them vulnerable to becoming ingrown.

Heredity—if you seem to get ingrown toenails frequently, you may have an inherited tendency toward them.


Fortunately, the treatment for ingrown toenails is less painful than the condition. Your podiatrist (find a podiatrist here if you don’t have one) will numb the toe of the affected nail and then gently remove the ingrown portion. If ingrown toenails are a chronic problem for you, the podiatrist can do an in-office procedure which will permanently prevent the nail from becoming ingrown by removing the root of the nail using surgical, chemical, laser or other means.

A risk associated with an ingrown toenail is the development of an infection once the nail actually breaks the skin. This would require additional treatment and for this reason you should not delay seeking treatment for an ingrown nail. If you are a patient with diabetes, peripheral arterial disease or other circulation problem you should contact the podiatrist immediately if you notice a nail becoming ingrown as this can lead to serious medical consequences. Do not attempt any home remedies.

To learn more about ingrown toenails or other toe, foot or ankle conditions, contact us. You may also want to subscribe to our free e-newsletter.