What is an ingrown toenail?
An ingrown toenail occurs when the nail edge is damaged, and the nail no longer fits properly into the side groove. The nail curls downward and digs into the skin, causing pain, swelling, redness, and drainage. Sometimes a piece of the nail (called a lateral pointing spicule) becomes embedded in the side tissue, and the tissue becomes heaped up (hypertrophied). Infection may also develop in the toe.
What causes an ingrown toenail?
There are many causes for ingrown nails, but the two most common causes are poorly fitting shoes and improperly trimmed nails. Tight shoes compress the side of the nail and alter the fit of the nail in the groove. When nails are peeled off or torn, the edge of the nail can extend down into the corner of the nail groove. A torn nail can irritate the skin next to the nail, producing inflammation (swelling, pain, and redness) and sometimes infection.
How can I treat my painful nail?
If the ingrown toenail gets worse, the inflammation (pain, swelling, and drainage) may increase. An antibiotic ointment can be tried at this stage. After you see your doctor about the problem, he or she may try oral antibiotics. Surgical removal of part of the nail is often needed if the problem becomes worse.