Ingrown Toenails

Hey you! Edward Scissorhands! Gone a little overboard trimming your toenails? Improper trimming can lead to ingrown toenails (onychocryptosis). This condition occurs when the edge of the nail grows directly into the surrounding tissue of the toe instead of over the skin, causing pain and discomfort.


Ingrown toenails often occur when toenails are improperly trimmed, leaving the nail plate too far from its proper edge. This tender, exposed skin becomes inflamed and pressure on the toe from shoes becomes painful.

Other causes include:

  • Injury, such as stubbing a toe or having a toe stepped on.
  • Ill-fitting shoes that put pressure on the inside edge of the big toe.
  • Running and the accompanying pounding and pressure on toes from shoes that are too short.
  • Bed sheets tucked too tightly around toes.


You can first spot warning signs for an ingrown toenail directly after trimming your toenails. If the toenail looks like it has been cut back too far, exposing the pink tissue around the edge, you may be at risk for an ingrown toenail. Over time, you might develop a feeling of discomfort and tenderness, and the tissue around the edge may become red and swollen. As the ingrown toenail continues to grow into the surrounding tissue, pain becomes more pronounced, making walking and even sitting difficult.

People suffering from an ingrown toenail may also notice the following:

  • The nail will not "grow out" on its own.
  • Trimming the nail back as it grows becomes difficult and painful.
  • Contact with shoes and socks can cause intense soreness in the ingrown toenail location

Treatment and Prevention

The simplest way to eliminate an ingrown toenail? Take extra care when cutting your toenails:

  • Use a proper toenail clipper to avoid trimming mistakes.
  • Keep toenails short – slightly longer than the tips of your toes.
  • Pay attention to the natural line of the nail and trim toenails carefully, straight across, with specially designed toenail clippers. Do not cut your nails at an angle.
  • Make sure not to gouge into the corners of your toenails when cutting.
  • Never dig down into the corners of the nail.


  • Wear appropriate fitting shoes with plenty of room in the toe box (especially if you already have an ingrown toenail).
  • Soak affected feet.
  • Apply a mild antiseptic.

Don't make ingrown toenails worse in an attempt to make them better. As the nail begins to cut into the skin, many people try to cut away the extended nail. This only exacerbates the situation, leading to even deeper imbedding of the ingrown toenail into the tender flesh. "Bathroom surgery" is not the way to correct an ingrown toenail.

If the problem persists, see a podiatrist for help correcting the problem areas.

Remember, when it’s time for your next at-home pedicure or routine nail maintenance, take it easy cutting those nails!

Related Conditions

This information is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. Please consult your health care provider on all matters relating to this or any other condition that may affect your health.