Ingrown toenails are a very common problem affecting primarily the great toenail. They are caused by sideways growth of the nail edge into the skin of the toe. The abnormal extension of the toenail pushes into the surrounding skin causing discomfort. Normal toenail growth should be vertical or outward toward the tip of the toe. The medical term for ingrown toenail is onychocryptosis.
Symptoms of ingrown toenails are sore, often painful, nail folds with various degrees of redness, swelling, and sometimes clear or yellow drainage. Frequently, ingrown toenails resolve without medical treatment. Complicated cases may require treatment by a physician.
It is important to see a physician for ingrown toenails that are very painful, infected, or not getting better. Signs of infection include enlarging areas of redness or a red streak extending from the toe. Signs of cellulitis (tissue infection) include swelling, marked redness, throbbing, and pain. Yellow or green drainage from the wound is also a concern and may require drainage and antibiotics. Diabetic patients or any patient with a compromised immune system should immediately see a physician.