An ingrown toenail is caused by the pressure from the ingrowth of the nail edge into the skin of the toe. Once the edge of the nail breaks through the skin, it produces inflammation. Initially presenting as a minor discomfort, it may progress into an infection in the adjacent skin (celluitis) and/or become a reoccurring problem. Ingrown toenails most commonly affect the large toes. An ingrown toenail is medically referred to as onychocryptosis.
The main causes of an ingrown toenail are improper trimming of the toenail, an inherited or hereditary condition, and improper shoe fitting. Injury by overly aggressive pedicures and nail picking are also common causes.
The warm, moist environment of the feet can be a breeding ground for bacteria and fungi. When there is a break in the skin from the offending nail border, these organisms can invade the area and cause an infection. Treatment for these infections is essential to maintain healthy toenails and feet.
Ingrown toenail symptoms and signs include, redness, pain and swelling. Sometimes there may be a clear, yellowish drainage, or if it becomes infected, pus drainage. Occasionally, ingrown toenails resolve without treatment. Painful, persistant and recurring ingrown toenails should be treated by a podiatrist.