Ingrown Toenail Overview

Onychocryptosis, or ingrown toenail, occurs when the nail grows downwards into the nearby skin of the toe. Often affecting the big toe, ingrown toenails can cause pain, swelling, redness, and infection (known as yellow drainage). Interestingly, ingrown toenails are less common in people who go barefoot. This is, however, not an option for the people of New Mexico.

Medical treatment is typically not needed to treat ingrown toenails but some complicated or chronic cases warrant consulting a podiatrist.

What Causes Ingrown Toenails?

Sometimes an ingrown toenail may be genetic, caused by an imbalance between the nail bed and the nail plate width or the tendency of the nail to curve abnormally. Injury can change the nail’s contour. Likewise, toenail deformities (such as a bunion bending your big toe in the direction of the second toe) or poor nail care (cutting the nail too short, peeling it off at its edges, or rounding the nail at the tip) can cause ingrown nails.

The biggest culprit of ingrown toenails are poorly-fitted shoes. High heels or narrow-pointed shoes exert pressure on the soft tissues and the nails causing the big toe nail to grow into the skin.

Treatment for Ingrown Toenails

Conservative Treatment

As stated above, many cases of ingrown toenails do not require advanced medical treatment. Most people can find relief with antibacterial ointment, warm salt water soaks, and wearing comfortable shoes and socks.


In severe and chronic cases, surgery may be used to ease the pain. If the whole nail is affected, or in cases of severe deformity, the surgeon may need to remove the matrix and the nail plate.

Partial Nail Removal

Sometimes it is only necessary to remove the part of the ingrown toenailgrowing into your skin. Following the removal of the affected part of the nail, the nail bed and any enlarged tissues close to nail plate are removed. Phenol is administered to destroy the nail matrix and root. The surrounding skin will be modified.

ingrown toenail 2Permanent Nail Removal

There are three procedures for complete nail removal. Each requires removing the nail plate and destroying the nail matrix. This can be done by:

  • Phenol:

This acidic chemical is applied to the nail matrix only and destroys the nail’s growth cells.

  • Surgical removal

A surgeon cuts the nail bed and the matrix. Sometimes stitches are required.

  • Laser

Laser heat is concentrated on matrix cells.

After permanently removing the nail plate, a tough skin will grow to protect the exposed nail bed. Patient must wait for this fleshy covering before resuming everyday activities. Nail polish can be used on this area.

Bone Overgrowth Removal

If the bone directly below the nail plate becomes enlarged, an outgrowth or a spur can develop that causes nail plate deformities or ingrown nails. In these cases, the excess bone can be removed. This procedure can be performed with a permanent or partial nail-plate surgery.

Post-Surgical Care

Few people experience much pain after nail surgery or during the healing process. Removal of excess bone during surgery requires a longer healing process.

The Foot and Ankle Institute of New Mexico can help you treat your ingrown toenails. Our experienced podiatrists are the best at diagnosing and treating this condition. We realize the pain and unsightliness of ingrown toenails and will offer you the quickest, most effective treatment for your unique situation.

Call us at (505) 814-6466 to schedule a consultation.