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Alternative Names Return to topOnychocryptosis; Unguis incarnatus
Definition Return to top
An ingrown toenail occurs when the edge of the nail grows into the skin of the toe. There may be pain, redness, and swelling around the nail.
Causes Return to top
An ingrown toenail can result from curved toenails, poorly fitting shoes, toenails that are trimmed improperly, or a toe injury. The skin around the toenail may become red and infected. The great toe is usually affected, but any toenail can become ingrown.
The condition may become serious in people with diabetes.
Exams and Tests Return to top
A doctor's examination of the foot is sufficient to diagnose an ingrown toenail.
Treatment Return to top
To treat an ingrown nail at home:
Repeat those steps, several times a day if necessary, until the nail begins to grow out and the pain goes away. Also, trim the toenail and apply over-the-counter antibiotics. If this does not work and the ingrown nail gets worse, see a foot specialist (podiatrist) or skin specialist (dermatologist).
The doctor may remove part of the nail or extra skin. If the toe is infected, your doctor may prescribe antibiotics. These may be applied to the skin or taken by mouth.
In recurrent cases, your doctor may permanently reshape your nail with chemicals or lasers.
Outlook (Prognosis) Return to top
Treatment will generally control the infection and relieve pain. However, the condition is likely to return if measures to prevent it are not taken. Good foot care is important to prevent recurrence.
Possible Complications Return to top
In severe cases, the infection may spread through the toe and into the bone.
When to Contact a Medical Professional Return to top
Call your health care provider if you are unable to trim an ingrown toenail or have severe pain, redness, swelling, or fever.
If you have diabetes, your risk for complications is higher. See your provider.
Prevention Return to top
To prevent an ingrown toenail:
References Return to top
Information from your family doctor. Ingrown toenails. Am Fam Physician. 2004; 70(5): 927.
Habif TP. Clinical Dermatology. 4th ed. St. Louis, Mo: Mosby; 2004.
Noble J. Textbook of Primary Care Medicine. 3rd ed. St. Louis, Mo: Mosby; 2001.Update Date: 4/12/2007 Updated by: Kevin Berman, MD, PhD, Associate, Atlanta Center for Dermatologic Disease, Atlanta, GA. Review provided by VeriMed Healthcare Network.