Ingrown Toenail Overview

Ingrown Toenail

An ingrown toenail or ingrown toenail describes the penetration of the toenail into the surrounding tissue, which leads to pain, especially when wearing shoes. Most of the time, the big toe is affected by this problem. The technical term for an ingrown toenail is unguis incarnatus.

What is an ingrown toenail?

According to wholevehicles, an ingrown toenail is understood by medical professionals as the penetration or ingrowth of the toenail into the nail bed. The toenail causes an initially superficial injury in which skin and tissue grow over parts of the nail during the healing process.

The foreign body in the nail bed usually leads to swelling, which is associated with more or less severe pain. If left untreated, the tissue can become inflamed by invading bacteria and cause major complaints that urgently require medical treatment.

Ingrown toenails are very common. Statistics show that men are affected much more often than women.


Ingrown toenails are most often caused by incorrect nail cutting. In particular, if the nail of the big toe is cut in an oval shape, the chances are that its edges will gradually slide into the nail bed.

This process is supported if the person concerned often wears tight shoes and additionally presses the nail and nail bed against each other. According to experts, genetic factors also play a role in the development of ingrown toenails.

If there are problems in the family, people at such an increased risk should take care of their feet and wear wide and comfortable shoes.

Symptoms, ailments & signs

The ingrown toenail is very easy to see optically and is therefore very easy for laypeople to diagnose themselves. The ingrown toenail usually occurs when the toenails are cut too short or too seldom cut and the foot is additionally forced into an unfavorable position by incorrect footwear.

As a result, the toenail is usually pressed too much into the surrounding tissue at its right or left edge and cuts there or grows in under pressure. The ingrowth is usually associated with a purulent inflammation and causes very great pain. With these complaints, the person concerned should definitely consult a doctor and have the ingrown toenail professionally treated. The first signs can already be seen in the reddening of the tissue.

If the ingrown toenail is not treated or treated incorrectly, the inflammation will progress. In the worst case, this can lead to necrosis or blood poisoning and develop into a life-threatening disease. Normally, however, an ingrown toenail that has been treated by a doctor usually heals very well and does not cause any further discomfort later on with improved foot care.

The first symptoms of a possibly ingrowing nail are pain at the nail bed and in the immediate vicinity of the nail. At this stage, medical foot care can prevent worse from happening.

Diagnosis & course

An ingrown toenail can be diagnosed very easily if there is swelling and redness around the nail bed that is pain-related. Often it can even be seen without aids where and how far the nail has grown in.

If an ingrown toenail is suspected, a specialist should be consulted who will initiate appropriate therapy. If the injury is left untreated, it often leads to more severe pain, which can significantly limit the affected person’s ability to walk. Wearing shoes in particular creates major problems at this stage.

Penetrating bacteria can eventually lead to inflammation, which can be accompanied by the formation of pus. In the worst case, surgery may be necessary to permanently reduce the symptoms.


An ingrown toenail is usually a very unpleasant matter that may even need to be treated by a doctor. Of course, various complications can also arise, which usually also require medical treatment. The most common complications are severe redness and persistent pain.

Of course, these complications can get significantly worse if the person does not seek medical help. Under certain circumstances, inflammation and bleeding can also occur on the toenail, which of course also requires appropriate treatment. At the latest when the inflammation shows pus formation, the visit to the doctor must not be delayed any longer.

Anyone who completely refrains from medical treatment at this point is running a very high risk. Otherwise, the formation of pus increases and blood poisoning can even occur. If you want to avoid this complication, you should consult a doctor immediately. Blood poisoning is a very serious matter that even threatens life.

The following applies: An inflamed toenail is usually a very painful affair. If you leave this clinical picture without any treatment, you have to reckon with the complications mentioned above. However, these complications can be avoided or treated effectively and quickly with an early visit to the doctor.

When should you go to the doctor?

If the ingrown toenail does not resolve on its own or causes discomfort, a doctor should always be spoken to. It is advisable to have sharp pain, redness and inflammation in the affected area medically clarified in order to avoid further complications. If the ability to walk is already restricted, the following applies: Call a specialist immediately and have the ingrown toenail medically treated. With early treatment, there are usually no long-term problems.

However, if the ingrown toenail is left untreated, it can lead to severe inflammation and chronic pain as a result. If symptoms of blood poisoning are noticed, an emergency doctor should be called. Depending on how far the inflammation has progressed, a few days of hospitalization are indicated. In the case of chronically ingrown toenails, the doctor will also suggest a nail bed reduction to the patient after the initial treatment. Diabetics and people who suffer from circulatory disorders for other reasons should also contact their doctor directly.

Treatment & Therapy

If an ingrown toenail is recognized and treated early, no surgical intervention is necessary in most cases. In principle, in addition to cleaning and disinfecting the affected tissue, the attending physician will ensure that the nail bed is relieved.

For this purpose, a wedge or a silicone tube can be pushed between the nail bed and the nail, which significantly reduces the pressure and quickly subsides the pain. A so-called nail correction brace can also be used. Here the toenail is slowly pulled up over a period of up to a year, preventing it from growing in again.

If, despite these measures, an ingrown toenail repeatedly occurs, surgical intervention must be carried out. The piece of toenail that is causing the discomfort is cut out. The injury then regresses and the symptoms no longer occur.

In the case of chronically ingrown toenails, a nail bed reduction can also be carried out. During this procedure, not only the nail itself, but also the nail bed is surgically reduced so that it cannot grow in again in the future. If there is already a purulent inflammation of the affected tissue, it may first have to be treated locally before a surgical procedure can take place. In general, very good results are achieved by reducing the size of the nails or the nail bed.

Outlook & forecast

The prognosis of an ingrown toenail is favorable. The affected person can bring about a change himself in the initial stage and shorten the toenail himself without much effort. If handled correctly, symptoms such as redness or pain will subside. Good wound care and foot care is essential.

During the healing process, tight footwear should not be worn so that there are no further complications or delays in recovery. If you cannot remove the toenail yourself or if the growth process has already progressed, a doctor should undertake corrective surgery. With good wound care, complete healing can be expected after a few weeks.

The prognosis worsens as soon as blood poisoning occurs. This can happen as soon as bacteria or other pathogens enter the body via the affected area on the foot. If medical care is not provided during this phase, the affected person may die prematurely.

The symptoms increase rapidly and there is a significant deterioration in health within a few days. If the symptoms of the ingrown toenail lead to poor posture of the body or a one-sided physical strain, the problems usually regenerate within the healing process. If changes persist, further treatment should take place.


An ingrown toenail can be prevented in many cases with wide and comfortable shoes and appropriate foot and nail care. Particularly when cutting nails, care should be taken that no corners press into the nail bed. People with a hereditary predisposition should once again pay special attention to the well-being of their feet and nails. If an ingrown toenail does occur, a doctor should be consulted in good time to avoid severe inflammation.

You can do that yourself

An ingrown toenail is uncomfortable, but in most cases it heals on its own without any problems. However, there are a few things that sufferers can do to speed up the regeneration of the nail and surrounding tissue and avoid possible complications.

First and foremost, it is important in this context that the affected area is carefully protected from additional irritation. This applies to mechanical influences caused by tight footwear as well as to soiling. The use of nail polish, harsh cleaning agents or brushes with hard bristles should also be avoided for a while. Those affected give the nail the best opportunity to grow out of its own accord. Constant manipulation of the affected nail with scissors and nail clippers often does more harm than good.

If a torn toenail is associated with inflammation of the surrounding tissue, a foot bath can be helpful. The water used should be warm and enriched with anti-inflammatory substances such as chamomile or special additives from the pharmacy or health food store. These home remedies can help in particular if a small collection of pus has formed in the area of ​​the torn nail. The skin above it often loosens through the warm water. This also loosens the accumulated secretion and any pressure pain that may be present disappears.

Ingrown Toenail