Skip to content
My WebMD Sign In, Sign Up

Skin Problems & Treatments Health Center

Font Size
A
A
A

Understanding Ingrown Nails -- the Basics

What Is an Ingrown Nail?

Picture of Ingrown Toenail Ingrown nails -- when the nail grows into the flesh instead of over it -- usually affect the toenails, particularly the big toe. People with curved or thick nails are most susceptible, although anyone can suffer from ingrown nails as a result of an injury, poorly fitting shoes, or improper grooming of the feet. People with diabetes, vascular problems, or numbness in the toes need to be aggressive in treating and preventing ingrown toenails because they can lead to serious complications, including the risk of losing a limb.

A damaged or improperly trimmed nail can become ingrown, burrowing into the skin at the side of the nail. The site can become painful and infected, and may not heal until the nail is removed. To avoid ingrown nails, always trim nails straight across.

What Causes Ingrown Nails?

Ingrown nails are most frequently caused by cutting your toenails too short or rounding the nail edges or by wearing ill-fitting shoes or tight hosiery that press the nail into your toe. You can also develop an ingrown nail after an injury, such as stubbing or jamming your toe.

If the condition causing the ingrown toenail continues, overgrowth of the tissue over the nail can lead to permanent changes in the tissue that can cause infection, more pain, and more swelling.

WebMD Medical Reference

Reviewed by Stephanie S. Gardner, MD on March 14, 2014

Today on WebMD

Cleansing skin
Article
Contact Dermatitis
Evaluator
 
woman showing eczema to dermatologist
Tool
mosquito bite
Q&A
 
itchy skin
Article
shingles rash on skin
Article
 
woman with skin tag
Quiz
Harvest mite
Slideshow
 
woman washing her hair in sink
Video
close up of womans bare neck
Tools
 
Feet
Slideshow
woman with face cream
Quiz