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Ingrown Toenail (Onychocryptosis)

Ingrown toenail facts

  • An ingrown toenail is a common, often unpleasant condition frequently seen in the big toenail.
  • Athletes commonly suffer from ingrown toenails.
  • Improper shoe gear and toe injuries are frequently associated with ingrown toenails.
  • It is not unusual for an ingrown toenail to recur unless treated appropriately.
  • Conservative treatments include soaks, elevation, proper nail cutting, and good foot hygiene. Medical treatment is not always required. Oral antibiotics are sometimes required as a treatment if infection is present. A health care professional can perform a minor toenail procedure if the problem is severe or recurrent.

What are ingrown toenails?

An ingrown toenail (onychocryptosis) is caused by the pressure from the ingrowth of the nail edge into the skin of the toe. Once the edge of the nail breaks through the skin, it produces inflammation. Initially presenting as a minor discomfort, it may progress into an infection in the adjacent skin (cellulitis) and/or become a reoccurring problem. Ingrown toenails most commonly affect the large (great) toes.

What causes ingrown toenails?

An imbalance between the size of the nail and the enlargement of the nail skin edge causes ingrown toenails. This condition can be exacerbated by improper trimming of the toenail, an inherited or hereditary condition, and improper shoe fitting. Injury by overly aggressive pedicures and nail picking are also common causes. Some people's toenails naturally curl inward (known as pincer nails). These toenails can easily become painful. Adolescents and athletes perspire more often. This causes nails and skin to be soft. The thin nail can eventually split and pierce the softened skin.

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Reviewed on 7/5/2017

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