Ingrown toenails occur when the edges or corners of your nails grow into the skin next to the nail. Your big toe is most likely to get an ingrown toenail.
You can treat ingrown toenails at home. However, they can cause complications that might require medical treatment. Your risk of complications is higher if you have diabetes or other conditions that cause poor circulation.
Ingrown toenails occur in both men and women. According to the National Health Services (NHS), ingrown toenails may be more common in people with sweaty feet, such as teenagers. Older people may also be at higher risk because toenails thicken with age.
Many things can cause an ingrown toenail, including:
- cutting toenails incorrectly (Cut straight across, since angling the sides of the nail can encourage the nail to grow into the skin.)
- irregular, curved toenails
- footwear that places a lot of pressure on the big toes, such as socks and stockings that are too tight or shoes that are too tight, narrow, or flat for your feet
- toenail injury, including stubbing your toe, dropping something heavy on your foot, or kicking a ball repeatedly
- poor posture
- improper foot hygiene, such as not keeping your feet clean or dry
- genetic predisposition
Using your feet extensively during athletic activities can make you especially prone to getting ingrown toenails. Activities in which you repeatedly kick an object or put pressure on your feet for long periods of time can cause toenail damage and increase your risk of ingrown toenails. These activities include:
Ingrown toenails can be painful, and they usually worsen in stages.
Early-stage symptoms include:
- skin next to the nail becoming tender, swollen, or hard
- pain when pressure is placed on the toe
- fluid building up around the toe
If your toe becomes infected, symptoms may include:
- red, swollen skin
- oozing pus
- overgrowth of skin around the toe