What is an ingrown toenail?

iStock_12157839_LARGEAn ingrown nail is a common condition affecting the toes, most often the big toes. It occurs when the side or corner of the nail digs into the skin alongside your nail and causes pain and irritation with the potential for the skin to become inflamed and infected. An involuted (excessively curved) nail can cause similar problems with pain, inflammation and infection. The curved nail presses on the tissues of the nail bed or the sulci (grooves) along the edges of the nail plate or both.

What causes an ingrown nail?

The main causes of ingrown toenails include

  • Incorrect cutting of nails, such as cutting them too short, not cutting straight across to remove the sharp corner, or tearing or picking them
  • Injuring your toe
  • Wearing shoes that are too tight or short
  • Having nails that naturally curve more than usual
  • Pressure between the toes due to bunions or toe deformities

Left untreated, an ingrown toenail can become infected which may lead to deeper infection in the tissue and bones if it is neglected or in people who have certain medical conditions such as diabetes. Even if an ingrown toenail becomes infected and you are given antibiotics by your doctor, it is important to have the problematic section of nail is removed to allow the toe to heal and prevent its recurrence.

At FootMotion, we use our extensive clinical experience and state-of the-art technology to properly diagnose your skin and nail condition, carry out a thorough vascular and neurological examination to accurately assess their foot health and create an evidence-based treatment plan to effectively manage your condition.

How can an ingrown toenail be treated?

In many cases, the troublesome toenail can be conservatively managed by removing just the small section of the nail that is causing the problem. Antiseptics and in some cases antibiotics may be needed in the case of an infection. Our Podiatrists have techniques to minimise your discomfort while treating your ingrown toenail. In some cases, we can administer a local anaesthetic to temporarily numb the area being treated.

Surgical Intervention

When there are recurring ingrown toenails or if the ingrown toenail is severe, we may suggest surgery to permanently remove part of the nail that is causing the problems. This procedure, called a nail wedge resection, involves removing a small section along the edge of the nail, narrowing the nail width slightly. The nail root or ‘matrix’ is then cauterised with a chemical to prevent the regrowth of the nail. It is a relatively simple procedure, performed by our Podiatrists in our clinic rooms with strict infection control procedures followed. According to a large clinical study, this particular technique is very effective at correcting the problem permanently. [1] It does require a local anaesthetic, however you will be able to walk out of the clinic room and generally won’t require an extended time recovery time.

Nail Bracing – a non-surgical intervention

NailBracing2ProgressWhere a non-surgical correction is medically advisable or a personal preference, Footmotion Podiatry offers nail bracing as an effective alternative for nail surgery. Nail bracing can alleviate discomfort quickly and painlessly. As no local anaesthetic is used nail bracing is suitable for children and people with diabetes. Where the treatment aim is to re-shape a curved nail plate the bracing may be removed and reapplied at regular intervals over a period between 3 to 12 months.

General Advice and Home Care

To help avoid the ingrown toenails in future, you will be shown ways to reduce the risk of them returning. This may include:

  • Advice on how to cut and care for your nails
  • Footwear review and advice to ensure proper fit and support
  • Ongoing nail care by our Podiatrists to help with difficult nail shapes
  • Treatment for foot conditions such as bunions and toe deformities


  1. Karaca, N. and T. Dereli, Treatment of ingrown toenail with proximolateral matrix partial excision and matrix phenolization. Annals Of Family Medicine, 2012. 10(6): p. 556-559.