Ingrown Toenail

What is an ingrown toenail?

We speak of an ingrown nail when the upper corner of the nail penetrates the surrounding flesh causing redness, inflammation or even infection and causing pain of varying intensity depending on the case. This painful condition most commonly affects the big toe but does not exclude the other toes either.

In order to avoid infection, it is important to consult a podiatrist as soon as the first symptoms of an ingrown toenail appear.

What causes an ingrown toenail?

Ingrown toenail can be caused by:

  • A natural hypercurvature of the nail increases the pressure on the furrows and the lateral edges of the nail.
  • Too short a cut of the nail.
  • A disease such as diabetes which weakens the skin and causes poor blood circulation in the feet.
  • Shoes that are too tight, too pointed or inadequate.
  • A deformation in the shape of the nail.
  • Pressure on the nail causing it to push in the wrong direction.
  • Trauma or microtrauma especially in joggers.
  • A hereditary predisposition causing frequent and recurring ingrown toenails to appear.
  • A humid environment caused by profuse sweating of the feet.

What are the symptoms of ingrown toenail?

The ingrown toenail manifests itself by:

  • Pain around a fingernail, most often made worse by wearing the wrong shoes. This pain increases with walking.
  • Increased pain from pressure.
  • Possible thickening of the nail.
  • Redness and inflammation of the skin around the affected nail. The inflammation can develop into an infection causing a swelling of skin filled with pus to appear.
  • Increasing permanent pain in the affected area. If left untreated, the bulge turns into a large, painful pimple.

How does the ingrown toenail change?

The ingrown nail evolves in three stages:

  • At the first stage, it is a small inflammation and pain on pressure;
  • In the second stage, a purulent infection appears with swelling and severe pain;
  • In the third stage, the inflammation becomes chronic. The formation of an ulcer is then possible, in particular in people with diabetes.

Who are the people at risk?

Some people are more at risk of developing ingrown toenails than others:

  • The elderly, especially diabetics;
  • Adolescents due to excessive sweating of the feet;
  • People with osteoarthritis of the toes;
  • People with a hereditary history of ingrown toenails in their family.

Ingrown toenail as a diagnosis

Although the symptoms of an ingrown toenail are often obvious, the podiatrist needs to make sure that it is indeed an ingrown toenail. The doctor can use several diagnostic techniques:

  • A visual examination of the foot;
  • A digital x-ray of the foot to check if the ingrown toenail is not due to a bone injury.

How to treat the ingrown toenail?

The ingrown toenail can be treated with medical treatment or home care.

Medical treatment

If the ingrown toenail is infected or has a large bead around the nail, surgery is needed. The toe is anesthetized to remove the edge of the nail inserted into the skin (partial onyxectomy). Antibiotics may be prescribed.

In the event of recurrence, the matrix, that is to say the root that makes the nail, located under the lateral part of the nail is removed.

Home care

It is important before any personal treatment to consult a doctor as soon as the first signs of this condition appear.

If the ingrown toenail is not at an advanced stage, you can do this:

– Clean the wound with an antiseptic product as soon as redness appears;

– Take foot baths for 15 minutes in lukewarm water mixed with an antiseptic;

– After drying the feet, slowly lift the edge of the nail by placing a small piece of clean cotton between the skin and the nail;

– Apply an antibiotic cream on the painful part;

– Wear comfortable shoes, preferably sandals, until the pain and inflammation are gone.

Can we prevent the appearance of an ingrown toenail?

Yes, you can prevent the appearance of an ingrown toenail by changing your lifestyle. Here, for example, are some tips:

  • Use scissors designed for nail trimming and avoid the ordinary nail clipper;
  • Regularly cut the toenail, opting for square rather than rounded cuts;
  • Do not cut the corners of the nail too short.
  • Wear comfortable, wide shoes and avoid tight, pointed shoes;
  • Limit the wearing of high-heeled shoes;
  • Wear shoes suitable for the activities practiced so as not to damage the nails.
  • It is recommended that the elderly and in particular diabetics to have their feet examined twice a year by a podiatrist and to follow a rigorous daily hygiene of the feet.

Make an appointment 


Ingrown toenail is not a medical condition to be taken lightly: if left untreated in time, it can make walking very painful or worse, become infected and cause you other concerns, especially if you are a person with diabetes.  Seeing a podiatrist is therefore your best decision.

PodiatreMD is a  network in downtown Montreal, on Rue Jean-Talon (corner Lucerne), Laval, West Island, Gatineau and Ottawa. We are  here to serve you. Our staff are as warm as they are competent and will know how to meet your needs.