An ingrown toenail can present with a range of pain, from "a little tender" to "severely painful." The cause of the pain stems from the corner or border of the nail pressing or digging into the skin around it. It can occur simply because of the natural growth pattern of the nail being curved in shape or it can result from an injury to the nail bed or nail plate itself. The nail may have a fungus in it that causes the growth change. In either case the sharp border of the nail pinches into the adjacent crease of skin and may even puncture the skin and cause an infection. The nail plate effectively acts as a foreign body even though it belongs to your toe!! If germs such as bacteria build up in the area where the nail pierced the skin, then an infection will result. There may or may not be associated redness, swelling, and drainage typically associated with an infected ingrown nail. But the pain is usually enough to draw a patient to an experienced medical professional for relief. DO NOT attempt to perform the removal of the nail on your own. "Bathroom surgery" is dangerous and should be avoided. Don't let a bad situation turn for the worse. An experienced doctor in the office setting can usually correct this problem. The doctor may or may not prescribe oral or topical antibiotics, but the key to successful treatment is in safely removing the portion of the nail involve. Removal of the entire nail is usually not necessary.
To help prevent ingrown nails, it is recommended that you wear a wide or roomy shoe with your nails being cut straight across. The Rothman Institute's Foot & Ankle Team of doctors are specifically trained and highly experienced to treat foot pain of all varieties.
There are many reasons why an ingrown nail develops. For some individuals the cause is genetic. An ingrown nail may develop after an incident such as the stubbing of the toe or having it stepped on. In most cases, the cause is improper trimming of the toenail or wearing tight fitting shoes.