Ingrowing toenails

If you follow the following instructions, you may avoid having to have your nail removed!

Ingrowing toenails are often caused by people cutting the edges of their nails too much. Or, it can follow an injury where the edge of the nail gets slightly torn, (caused by ill-fitting shoes, sporting activities, or from "picking"). Shoes that are tight around the toes, or that do not breathe, can make the problem worse. (Ingrowing toenails are rarely seen in societies where shoes are not worn).

The nail starts to grow down into the nail fold, and the surrounding skin gets inflamed (swollen, red and tender). The nail then ends up trapped, growing into this inflamed tissue, which gets more swollen, setting up a vicious cycle. You may be prescribed a course of antibiotics. This should reduce pain and swelling, and allow the nail edge to grow forward normally.

VERY IMPORTANT:-As the nail grows forward you must NOT cut around at the edge, but cut straight across, so that the side of the nail edge sticks out from the skin. It is no longer recommended to cut a "v" in the middle of the nail.

Whenever possible, remove footwear, and allow the feet to breathe. Wear natural cotton socks.

Choose shoes that have breathable uppers, and that have lots of room around the toes. Sandals are best.

If these measures do not help, please contact your doctor or chiropodist.

Cutting your own toe nails - Some golden rules

  • Always cut your nails straight across following the shape of the toe.
  • Don't cut or tear down the side of the nail
  • Don't cut the nail too short
  • Don't cut a "V" in the nail - it DOES NOT resolve ingrowing toenails.

Further information

This article published on
08 February 2006

Next review date 2/1/2013


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