Ingrown Toenails

Ingrown toenails can be an especially painful nuisance. More than that, though, they can even endanger your overall health if they get infected.

This frustrating condition occurs when the edge or corner of a nail—usually, but not always, on the big toe—starts to curve downward and inward into the skin.

In mild cases, this might result only in some swelling and tenderness. But a severe ingrown toenail can lead to intense pain, and even difficulty wearing shoes or performing daily activities. In the worst cases, a toe infection can develop and potentially threaten an amputation if you have diabetes or an otherwise compromised immune system.


What Causes Ingrown Toenails?

An ingrown toenail can be caused by one or more of a variety of underlying factors. Some of the most common include:

  • Do you find you keep getting ingrown toenails no matter what you do? Did your parents get them? It may be the case that your toenails are just especially curved, and naturally likely to become ingrown.
  • Are you constantly shoving your feet into shoes that are too small and too tight in the toe box? Or maybe you have the opposite problem, and your shoes are so big that your feet are sliding around and your toes are slamming the front of the shoe. Either way, ingrown toenails are likely to result.
  • Other injuries or activities. Both traumatic and overuse injuries can lead to ingrown toenails. Examples include stubbing your toe, dropping something heavy on your foot, or kicking a soccer ball over and over.
  • Poor trimming technique. Did you know that there’s a wrong way to cut your toenails? The most common mistake is cutting your toenails too short, which creates more opportunity for the nearby skin to fold over the nail. You should leave them a little long, and cut relatively straight across (rather than curving in at the corners). Also, only cut your toenails when they’re dry, and use a large toenail clippers—you’ll get more leverage to make a clean cut.

When Should You See A Podiatrist for Your Ingrown Toenails?

If you suspect you have an infection, you have diabetes, or you have any other medical condition that could compromise your circulation or immune system, definitely do not attempt to treat yourself. Get help.

In general, we do encourage patients to come see us as soon as possible after they develop an ingrown toenail under any circumstance. The reason is that this condition very frequently gets worse over time, even with home care. Furthermore, professional treatment is very quick and painless.

That said, if your ingrown toenails are still mild and not causing you much pain—and you do not have diabetes or another condition impairing your immune system—you can try soaking your feet in lukewarm water for 15-20 minutes, two or three times per day. This can help ease pain and swelling.

Never, ever attempt to cut or dig out an ingrown toenail yourself—sometimes called “bathroom surgery.” This will only greatly increase your risk of developing an infection.

Professional Ingrown Toenail Treatment

The best option for an ingrown toenail is to simply schedule an appointment with the team at Tucson Foot & Ankle Institute. We can have you in and out in a single appointment, with your ingrown toenail removed and your pain eliminated!

We will perform a minor procedure in which the offending nail border is removed, under a local anesthetic. You should not feel any pain or discomfort, and your toe should be feeling a lot better by the time the anesthetic wears off.

There is also a second procedure we can perform, in which we will also remove the portion of the underlying nail bed responsible along the edge that has become ingrown. Essentially, what this does is permanently prevent that edge of the toenail from growing back.

Although your nail will end up a little thinner than before, we usually only have to remove a very slender portion. The results look quite good, and the main thing is that your chance of getting another ingrown toenail in the same place are almost nonexistent afterward.

What Does Recovery Look Like?

After the procedure, you will be able to walk out of the office. Most people are able to go back to school, work, and other daily activities within a day or two, if not right away.

There may be some activity restrictions at first—for example, you might have to avoid getting your foot wet, or skip out on vigorous physical exercise for a few days to a few weeks. We may also prescribe antibiotics to help you prevent or reverse an infection.

As you can see, this is one condition where, in most circumstances, it’s better to be safe than sorry. So if you’re currently struggling with a painful ingrown toenail, get the help you need fast. Contact the team at Tucson Foot and Ankle today at (520) 545-0202.

Contact Us

Office Hours:

Monday - Friday
8:00AM - 5:00PM


2nd & 4th Tuesday of the Month:

8:00AM - 7:00PM

Tucson Foot & Ankle Institute

7406 N. La Cholla Blvd
Tucson, AZ 85741

Phone: (520) 545-0202

Fax: (520) 545-0201

Get Directions

Office Hours:

Monday - Friday
8:00AM - 5:00PM


2nd & 4th Tuesday of the Month:

8:00AM - 7:00PM

Tucson Foot & Ankle Institute:

7406 N. La Cholla Blvd.
Tucson, AZ 85741


Phone: (520) 545-0202

Fax: (520) 545-0201

Get Directions


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