Ingrown Toe Nail

An ingrown toenail is a painful condition that affects the toe. It occurs when a sharp corner of the toenail pierces the skin at the end or side of the toe. Initially, there is pain and inflammation at the point where the nail curves into the skin. Subsequently, the inflamed area may develop extra tissue or emit yellowish fluid. If left untreated, an ingrown toenail can progress to an infection or even an abscess that may necessitate surgical intervention. While any toenail can become ingrown, this condition is most commonly found in the big toe.

Several factors can cause ingrown toenails, but the two most frequent culprits are poorly fitting shoes and improperly trimmed nails. Tight shoes can compress the sides of the nail, altering its position within the nail groove. When nails are ripped or torn, the nail's edge can extend into the corner of the nail groove. A torn nail can irritate the adjacent skin, leading to inflammation (characterized by swelling, pain, and redness) and sometimes even infection.

When Is Ingrown Toenail Removal Necessary?

Ingrown toenails irritate the skin. As a result, they can make it easier for bacteria and other microbes to get in, which increases the risk of infection. Promptly treating an ingrown toenail reduces this risk. Some signs of infection include:

  • swelling
  • pus
  • redness
  • extreme pain
  • a fever 

Ingrown Toenail Removal Procedure

Ingrown toenail surgery typically involves the use of local anesthesia. Local anesthesia ensures that the individual remains awake during the procedure, but the doctor administers an anesthetic to the area, making the toe numb and preventing the person from feeling any pain. During the surgery, a chiropodist removes a portion of the toenail to prevent it from digging into the surrounding skin. This procedure is also known as a Partial Nail Avulsion.

In addition to Partial Nail Avulsion, a Total Nail Avulsion (TNA) procedure can also be performed. This procedure involves the complete removal of the entire toenail.


You should keep your foot elevated for a few hours and rest on the day of the surgery; the next day, you can return to work or school. You should refrain from running or vigorous exercise for 2 weeks after the surgery. For most people, the wound will heal within several weeks. The pain will steadily lessen in the days following surgery and should have gone by the time the wound heals. 

A person can help speed their recovery after ingrown toenail surgery by:

  • soaking the foot in warm water or Epsom salts every day
  • taking ibuprofen (brand names: Advil, Motrin, Nuprin), to help with pain and swelling  
  • keeping the wound clean and dry, except when showering or cleaning the area
  • keeping the wound bandaged until it heals, which usually takes several weeks
  • avoiding strenuous activity that puts pressure on the nail 
  • wearing properly fitted shoes that are not too tight
  • avoiding picking at the wound