Fact: Ingrowing toenails are painful! Ouch!

Updated: Apr 14, 2021


Are you feeling the pain?

Ingrowing toenails are very painful and frequently complicated by infection, requiring antibiotics. Whilst the antibiotics are usually successful in fighting infection and can help reduce pain, swelling, and discharge, the problem remains and the fact is that the nail is still penetrating the skin surrounding the toenail.

How do you know if you’ve got an ingrowing toenail?

Ingrowing toenails, if left untreated, may progress from mild irritation of the skin from the nail as it just begins to pierce the skin through to a chronically infected ingrowing toenail.

Often affecting the big toenails, but can be a problem on any toenail, an ingrowing toenail happens when the skin surrounding the toenail is pierced by the nail. It is literally growing into the skin. The piercing of the skin allows the entry of bacteria, causing pain, swelling, redness, an offensive smell, and discharge that may be pus or fluid-like.

Why have you got an ingrowing toenail?

1 You may have cut your nail too short or been tempted to cut down the side of the nail in order to relieve some pressure from the surrounding skin

2. It may be the shape of your nail. Some nails are very wide and flare out, whilst other nails are very curved around the sides and so are more inclined to ingrow. You may have some thickening of the nail, meaning you find the nail had to cut correctly.

3. Injury. You may have stubbed your toe causing damage to the nail resulting in ingrowing

4. If you suffer from sweaty feet, whether that’s through sports, work, or just generally, this can weaken the nail and skin resulting in ingrowing nails.

5. It can be the shape of your foot that is a contributing factor for an ingrowing toenail. Flat feet and bunions alter the alignment of your toes and put excessive pressure on the skin around the nail, potentially pushing the nail into the skin.

How do you get rid of an ingrowing toenail?

Most people who consult us about an ingrowing toenail have tried to resolve it themselves. No matter how many antibiotics are prescribed, how much you soak your toe in warm salt water, or how much you apply an antiseptic cream, the nail will remain within the skin. Certainly, these measures can reduce symptoms but, until the nail is freed from the skin the pain, swelling and redness will remain.

If you want Freedom from your ingrowing toenail then read on...

There are a couple of options available, to resolve an ingrowing toenail, that we offer at Stepwise Podiatry.

The first is a non-surgical option. This involves us using specially designed ingrowing toenail clippers and a special thin scalpel blade to remove the offending piece of nail. The success of this largely depends on how painful the nail is. It depends on the depth to which the nail has penetrated the skin and on where the nail has pierced the skin. If the nail is near the top end we are more likely to be able to remove it in a non-surgical way than if it was further down towards the toe.

The second option is nail surgery. Although this may sound drastic it is a relatively quick procedure done under a local anaesthetic, so can be the least painful option. In most cases, nail surgery will provide a long-term and permanent resolution to an ingrowing toenail.

What does toenail surgery involve?

Toenail surgery involves removal of either part of, or the whole of, the affected nail under a local anaesthetic. Following the removal of the nail, a chemical is used to prevent the nail from growing back again.

How long does it take to recover from nail surgery?

Recovery from nail surgery is usually expected to be between 6 and 12 weeks. We will advise you to rest on the day of the surgery but you can usually go back to normal activities and work the following day, although you may want to consider a few days off to allow the healing process to get underway.

Stepwise Podiatry Nail Surgery Care Package...

Here at Stepwise Podiatry, we offer a nail surgery package of care that includes the nail surgery procedure, your follow-up dressing appointments (we like to start with 2 dressing appointments booked in at 2 and 10 days after surgery to make sure things are healing as they should) plus a dressing pack with enough dressing materials for those first 10 days. Until healing is complete you get unlimited access to us for ongoing advice and checks if you are worried. In between your dressing appointments, we will ask you to change the dressing yourself. Don’t worry, we provide guidance and information on how to do this successfully.


Time to stop that cycle of pain and antibiotics.

Get in touch if you’ve got an ingrowing toenail that isn’t resolving.

For a permanent fix, maybe nail surgery is your answer.


Thank you for taking the time to read our blog on ingrowing toenails and nail surgery.

We hope you found it useful.

Fran & Helen x

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