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Ingrown Toenails: Symptoms, Causes, and Diagnosis

Do you have a nail that's constantly getting caught on your sock? Is the skin around your nail red and irritated? If so, you may have an ingrown toenail. It’s important to be aware of the symptoms of an ingrown toenail so that you can catch it early and get treatment if necessary.


 The symptoms of an ingrown toenail are fairly straightforward—a sharp pain in the toe or around the nail bed, redness and swelling around the nail, and sometimes even drainage from the area. It's something you definitely don’t want to ignore, as it can become very serious if not treated properly.


The most common cause of an ingrown toenail is ill-fitting shoes. Shoes that are too small or tight can press against the toes and cause the nail to grow into the skin around it. This is especially true if you’re wearing shoes made of stiff material such as leather, which provides no give for your feet.

Improper nail trimming technique is also a common cause of ingrown toenails. If you cut your nails too short or round the edges off, it could cause the nail to grow into the skin rather than above it. Additionally, if you’re too rough when trimming, excess pressure could damage the surrounding skin and cause an infection.

So, how do you know the appropriate length of a toenail? The general rule of thumb is to leave approximately one millimeter of the “white stuff” on your toenail. This is the best way to ensure that your nails are not too long or too short.

You can watch a video tutorial of how to trim your nails here.

Poor foot hygiene is another common ingrown toenail cause. Trapped sweat and bacteria can accumulate in the shoes and around the nails, making it more likely that an infection will occur if you get a cut or bruise.

Genetics can also play a role in how prone someone is to getting ingrown toenails. If your family has a history of ingrown toenail problems, you may be more likely to develop them as well.

Diagnosis & Treatment

Finally, let’s talk about diagnosis. If you have any of the symptoms mentioned above, it’s important to call us or see your local podiatrist right away. We will examine your toe and may take a sample of any pus or fluid to test for infection. Depending on the severity of your case, we may recommend a course of antibiotics, a procedure, or both.

If you need to have a procedure to remove your ingrown toenail, we’ll numb your toe before we do anything. We even numb your toe with a cooling spray before we use any needles for the anesthetic, so you won’t feel a thing. In fact, you’ll be relieved when the pain from your ingrown toenail magically disappears. The procedure takes about five minutes to complete. If you are curious about what the procedure is like, check out our YouTube channel!

So, what’s the verdict? How do you know if you have an ingrown toenail and how do you treat it? If your toe is red, swollen, and hurts like heck, there’s a good chance you have an ingrown toenail. The best way to find out for sure is to call us at 859-264-1141 or schedule an appointment with us online. We can take a look and give you some tips on how to prevent them in the future (hint: don’t cut your nails too short). Until then, soak your foot in warm water and Epsom salts twice a day and keep that bandage on tight!