An ingrown toenail occurs when a toenail’s sides curve into the soft tissue that surrounds the nail. The tissue around the nail often becomes red, swells and can be painful. In some cases, the ingrowth can lead to an infection.
Ingrown toenails are common, but it’s important to treat them promptly to reduce the risk of infection or other complications.
Anyone who has an ingrown toenail is welcome to see a podiatrist for treatment. There are two conditions in particular, however, that call for immediate treatment from a medical doctor. Patients who have an ingrown toenail that is unusually painful, red or swollen should seek medical treatment. Additionally, anyone who is diabetic or suffers from poor blood circulation should see a podiatrist, even if their ingrown toenail isn’t severe, because poor blood flow can lead to an increased risk of infection or complication.
Ingrown toenails can be caused by a number of things, some of which are preventable. Patients sometimes get ingrown toenails from:
Cutting their toenails too short so that the corners of the nails digs into the skin
Wearing shoes or hosiery that fit poorly and press the toenail against the skin
Injuring a toe or toenail, such as stubbing a toe
Some people who have unusually curved toenails may be more prone to developing ingrown toenails, but this is a less common cause.
Doctors can diagnose ingrown toenails in their office and without any involved testing. When making their assessments, doctors take into account a patient’s symptoms and complete a physical examination of the toe in question. The process takes about as long as any other doctor appointment, and patients are usually free to go back to their house, office, or school afterward.