Ingrown toenail (onychocryptosis)

Last update: 15 February 2020

Ingrown toenail (onychocryptosis)

Ingrown toenail (onychocryptosis)

Ingrown toenails are a common nail problem that can become very painful. This occurs when a toenail grows and penetrates into the flesh. It causes inflammation and can cause infection, which results in pain in the toes. The problem must be corrected as quickly as possible in order to prevent the situation from worsening.


There are various signs to help us recognize an ingrown toenail. These may include inflammation and reddening of the skin, pain when pressure is applied to the area, and in certain cases blood or pus on the side of your nail.

Keep in mind that an ingrown toenail develops in three stages:

  • First stage: slight inflammation visible and pain when pressure is applied to the area
  • Second stage: infection appears and the wound becomes more evident
  • Third stage: inflammation becomes chronic with the formation of a protrusion. Diabetics may also witness the formation of an ulcer in the infected region

Regardless of the development stage, it is important to contact your podiatrist to schedule a visit.


What are the reasons a person might suffer from onychocryptosis? There are several answers to this question. Below are some of the factors that can cause ingrown toenails.

  • Nail shape: wide, curved or thick nails may lead to ingrown nail problems.
  • Nail care: improper cutting of the nails (too short or pointed) and infrequent maintenance may result in
  • Infection: an infection like nail fungus (onychomychosis) can promote the formation of ingrown toenails.
  • Shoes: wearing shoes that are too narrow or unsuitable for the foot can create toenail problems due to excessive pressure on the toes.

Preventing ingrown toenails

There are several things you can do to avoid skin issues with your feet. Here are a few suggestions.

  • Shoes: avoid wearing shoes that are too tight or that have pointy ends.
  • Nail size: do not cut your nails too short. Cut your nails straight, with the corners slightly rounded. Also refrain from cutting your nails at an angle on the sides.

Home treatments for ingrown toenails

If you suffer from an ingrown toenail, there are several ways to ease your pain. Below are some of the methods to alleviate your condition.

  • Disinfecting foot baths: soak your foot in salt water to disinfect the nail. Repeat 1 or 2 times daily.
  • Antibiotic cream: available over-the-counter at your pharmacy.
  • Disinfect and dry the foot: thoroughly clean your feet with soap and water, and ensure you dry them properly after bathing.

Remember, these tips do not replace a visit to your podiatrist. And it goes without saying, do not wait until things get worse!

Podiatrist care

Unfortunately, some people suffer from ingrown toenails regularly. That’s why healthcare professionals suggest various treatments that can help to ease their pain.

  • Medical nail cutting: cutting the infected nail with or without anaesthesia to reduce the pressure that causes the pain, allowing your toenail to heal.
  • Antibiotic prescription: your podiatrist can prescribe creams best suited to your condition.
  • Orthotic devices: an orthotic device with a titanium or polymer stem used to correct a deformed nail that may result in an ingrown toenail.
  • Ingrown toenail surgery: an effective, almost painless procedure, under local anaesthesia, that results in an aesthetic appearance and a definitive solution to the problem

In some cases a local anaesthesia may be required. However, you can be certain that the sooner you contact a professional, the better your feet will be.

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