What are ingrown toenails?

Hillary B. Brenner, DPM
Podiatric Medicine
An ingrown toenail (onychocryptosis) is when the corners of a toenail grow into the soft skin adjacent to the toenail, leading to irritation, redness, swelling and infection. The following are causes of ingrown toenails:1) Ill-fitting shoes that are too narrow in the toe-box, too short, and tight fitting socks may all cause ingrown toenails. 2) Cutting toenails too short or cutting into the corners of the toenail causes the surrounding skin to fold over the nail and the nail to push into the skin and pierce it. 3) Trauma to the nail such as dropping an object on the toe, having a toe stepped on or repeated trauma such as pounding to which runners subject their feet to can all cause the corner of the nail to be jammed into the skin. 4) Hereditary...for example, some people have inherited unusual curvature of their toenails. A specific condition is called pincer nails, which is a toenail disorder in which the lateral (outside) edges of the nail slowly approach one another compressing the nail bed. 5) A person's gait (walking cycle) and posture can have an impact on developing ingrown toenails. 6) Thick fungal nails or a nail that was lost from trauma can develop into ingrown toenails.
An ingrown toenail is when the edge of the nail grows into the skin of the toe. It can be quite painful. If you have poor blood flow, it can be serious. People with diabetes often have poor blood flow.

You can usually take care of an ingrown toenail at home. But sometimes you might need to go to the doctor.
Christopher Chiodo, MD
Orthopedic Surgery
An ingrown toenail is one of the most common sources of foot pain. It can be a serious problem for anyone with diabetes or circulatory difficulties.

An ingrown toenail develops when the side of the nail digs into the skin. This can lead to pain, irritation, swelling, and redness. The big toe is most often affected, although no toe is immune. The problem usually develops because the nails have not been trimmed properly. Overly tight shoes may also be a factor. Some people have an inherited tendency to develop the problem.
An ingrown toenail occurs when the edge of the nail grows down and into the skin of the toe. There may be pain, redness, and swelling around the nail. An ingrown toenail can result from a number of things, but poorly fitting shoes and bad hygiene and foot maintenance are the most common causes. The skin along the edge of a toenail may become red and infected. The great toe is usually affected, but any toenail can become ingrown.
(This answer provided for NATA by the Eastern University Athletic Training Education Program.)
Dr. Mehmet Oz, MD
Cardiology (Cardiovascular Disease)
If nails are not clipped correctly, they can bend into the tissue, causing ingrown toenails. Learn more about ingrown toenails in this video by Dr. Oz.

An ingrown toenail is a common condition that occurs when an edge of a toenail grows into the skin surrounding it, or when the skin surrounding a toenail grows over the toenail. It is most common on the big toe. This may cause pain, redness, swelling, and infection.

Continue Learning about Ingrown Nails

What are symptoms of an ingrown toenail?
Hillary B. Brenner, DPMHillary B. Brenner, DPM
The symptoms of an ingrown toenail are pain, redness, drainage of pus, odor and prominent skin tissu...
More Answers
Should I talk to my doctor about ingrown nails?
Hillary B. Brenner, DPMHillary B. Brenner, DPM
You should always speak with your podiatrist about ingrown toenails. Especially if the ingrown toena...
More Answers
What Can I Do to Avoid Ingrown Nails?
What Can I Do to Avoid Ingrown Nails?
Do Your Feet Look Good Naked?
Do Your Feet Look Good Naked?

Important: This content reflects information from various individuals and organizations and may offer alternative or opposing points of view. It should not be used for medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. As always, you should consult with your healthcare provider about your specific health needs.