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How to Deal with Ingrown Toenails

Tips and guidance on dealing with this painful condition

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How to Deal with Ingrown Toenails
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What is an Ingrown Toenail?

The medical name for this disorder is onychocryptosis, and it is a nail that digs in to one or both sides of the toe.  Ingrowing toenails are not something that can be easily ignored, because they can become very painful and often result in infections. This is because the nail digs into the skin, eventually splitting it.

How Does it Happen ?

  • An ingrowing toenail can be caused by something as simple as incorrect trimming.  A nail should be cut straight across and not too short, rather than being cut to shape. Otherwise it will begin to embed itself into the sides of the toe, thereby beginning the cycle of ingrowing. 
  • Injury to the nail can also be responsible for the nail growth becoming abnormal.
  • Ingrown toenails can be hereditary.
  • Footwear that is tight and restricts the sides of the feet can also be a major cause.

How to Treat an Ingrown Toenail:

If you have an underlying medical condition, such as diabetes, do not attempt to treat your nails at home.  The same rule also applies if the nail in infected.  You will know if an infection is present because not only will the toe be sore but it will also be very warm, and in severe cases may even have a discharge.  If there is not a medical reason for the discomfort, the following should ease the problem:

  • Soaking the foot in warm, not hot water, on a regular basis.  This should aid in relieving any inflammation (at this point, if the nail is infected it will feel as though it is 'throbbing' in the water.)
  • Do not attempt to try to 'dig out' the nail that is embedding itself, since you may cause more damage than is already occurring.


  • If infection is present your physician can prescribe antibiotics, and quite often a small procedure performed in the doctors office can make life much more comfortable.

    Can You Avoid Ingrown Toenails?

    The follwing tips may help you avoid an ingrown toenail:

    • If you know that your toenails are exceptionally thick and awkward to trim it is advisable to visit a professional who can assist you in trimming them correctly.
    • Do not spend long periods of time in ill-fitting footwear.
    • Use protective footwear if your feet are likely to be subject to any kind of trauma (e.g. working with large animals).

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