ingrown Toenail (Onychocryptosis)

What is an ingrown toenail?

Onychocryptosis – commonly known as an ingrown toenail – is said to occur when part of the free edge of the nail penetrates the skin at the side of the toe (known as the sulcus). Later, the inflamed area can begin to grow extra tissue or drain yellowish fluid.

What are the causes?

  • Poor nail cutting – leaving a nail spike or shoulder
  • Trauma – stubbing the toe or dropping a heavy item upon it
  • Inappropriate footwear – too tight at the toe box or providing little in the way of protection
  • Nail deformity – involution or wide nail plate
  • Nail disease – psoriasis or fungal infection
  • Excessive moisture of the skin (hyperhidrosis)

How will I know if I have an ingrown toenail?

  • The skin will become shiny and red
  • The surrounding skin may become swollen and may bleed intermittently
  • A small growth of ‘jelly-like’ tissue (hypergranulation tissue) may become present and may partially cover the nail
  • There may be some beading of sweat around the toe(hyperhidrosis)
  • A discharge may be present at the site of penetration – this will frequently require antibiotics to be prescribed by your GP
  • The toe can become quite painful as time passes

How is it treated?

  • An ingrown toenail can only be successfully treated by removal of the nail spike or nail shoulder
  • Your podiatrist can treat this in its earliest stages by cutting away the nail (a partial nail resection) and filing the nail edge
  • In its later stages, removal of the nail may require a local anaesthetic (nail surgery)

How can I prevent it?

  • Don’t pick, tear or rip at your nails
  • When cutting the nail, you should follow the curve of the toe
  • Ensure footwear is of an adequate size and shape
  • When wearing trainers, ensure that the laces are done up correctly
  • Don’t cut a V in the end of the nail
  • Seek advice as soon as a problem starts to occur

Ingrown Toenails Facts


Any nail can become ingrown, but the condition is usually found in the big toe.


Ingrown toenails are common in adults and adolescents but less common in children and infants. They are more common in men than in women. Young adults in their 20s or 30s are most at risk.

If left untreated, an ingrown toenail can progress to an infection or even an abscess that could require surgical treatment

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