What Causes Ingrown Toenails, Infection & Chronic Hurt?


What causes ingrown toenails? Did you know that your shoes could be a culprit? Here are the causes of ingrown toe nails to hurt as well as get infected. Did you know that nail fungus could be the reason why you have those nails growing back? Find out more below.

If you have ever had an ingrown toenail, then you know how painful and uncomfortable it can feel. This article will give you a rundown of all the common factors that can lead to the development of ingrown toenails and highlight some of the reasons behind those chronic ingrown toenails that occurs every so often that it seems like an everyday problem to you.

Infected Ingrown Toenail may have symptoms such as bleeding.

What Causes Ingrown Toenails?

Ingrown toenails – toenails that grow into the flesh rather than above it – usually affect the big toe nail even though any other toenail can be affected.

People with thick and/or curved nails are more prone to ingrown toenails even though anyone can experience the problem. So what causes ingrown toenails? Here are some of the common causative factors:

Ill-fitting shoes:  Ingrown toenails are often the consequence of choosing a pair of shoes purely for style and fashion and forgetting the comfort part. If a pair of shoe is too tight-fitting, it can exert excessive pressure on the skin around your toenail. When the skin is pressed so hard against the toenail, it can eventually get pierced.

A tight-fitting pair of shoes can also make the toenail to curve inwards culminating in an ingrown toenail.

Cutting nail inappropriately

Cutting you toenail too short and round also increase the chances of developing ingrown toenails. This is because the practice can make the skin to fold over the toenail and the nail to grow into the surrounding flesh. Instead you should cut your nails straight across and allow enough length beyond the edge of the toe.

Natural shape of your toenail

Some people have unusually curved or fan-shaped toenails which make them have a high susceptibility to ingrown toenails. This is because such toenails are more likely to pierce the fold of skin next to them.

Excessive sweating and poor foot hygiene

Excessive sweating can make the skin around the toenail moist and soft making it easier for the toenail to pierce into it. This explains why teenagers are more susceptible to ingrown toenails. Changing your socks regularly can help to prevent ingrown toenails and is especially important for people who have a tendency to sweat a lot. .

Fungal infections

Fungal infection such as athlete foot can as well make the toenail thicker and wider, leading to the development of ingrown toenails. Infection can also make the nail brittle and make it to flake off resulting in sharp edges that can pierce the surrounding skin.


An injury to the toenail can also cause ingrown toenail. This can for instance happen from stubbing your toe, having a heavy object fallen on your toe (ouch! That hurts), or due to repetitive use such as kicking a soccer ball.

Medication: some medication can also lead to ingrown toenails. A good example is isotretinoin.

What Causes Ingrown Toenails to Hurt?

Pain is one of the common symptoms of ingrown toenails. So, what causes ingrown toenails to hurt, you ask?

Pain is a natural response to injury and is indeed a good thing as it makes you aware of the injury. Luckily the pain associated with ingrown toenails clears with simple home treatment with warm soapy water.

To do that, start by soaking the toes in warm salty water for 10-20 minutes. Next, dry the toenail and then push the skin fold gently away from the affected area using a cotton bud starting from the base of the toenail all the way to the tip. Repeat this procedure twice or thrice daily.

If the nail is grown (or has had time to grow) long enough, insert a small piece of cotton wool beneath it to separate it from the underlying skin and keep it growing in the right direction. It is important to change the cotton wool everyday to prevent infection. And once the toenail is long enough to require trimming, do it straight across and avoid rounding the edges.

You can also take over-the-counter painkillers such as Paracetamol, Tylenol, or ibuprofen to relieve the pain, but if the ingrown toenail continues to hurt, consider seeing your GP or a podiatrist.

What Causes Ingrown Toenail Infection?

An ingrown toenail can get infected. Some of the symptoms of infection are increasing and pulsating pain, warmth, increased inflammation and redness, and pus (green or yellow fluid). As the infection worsens, you may experience fever and the redness can spread all across the toe (a condition known as paronychia).

You may right now be wondering what causes ingrown toenail infection? Well, an ingrown toenail becomes infected for the simple reason of being left untreated. As a result, the nail continues to damage the skin tissues around it which can then become the entry point for bacteria. The ingrown toenail can also infects the underlying bone leading to bone infection.

If you are experiencing the above mentioned symptoms of infection, it is important to seek the attention of your doctor. Your doctor can prescribe topical or oral antibiotics to treat the infection.

What Causes Chronic Ingrown Toenails?

Some people may experience chronic cases of ingrown toenails characterized by recurring (and sometimes worsening) episodes of pain and inflammation. The question then is, “what causes chronic ingrown toenails?”

Well, this problem can arise from the continued presence of one or more causative factors for ingrown toenails. For example, someone could have been born with unusually curved toenails which grow right into the folds of the skin on one or both sides of their nail bed.

Ingrown toenails can also keep recurring in patients who tend to sweat a lot. This is because sweat often makes the skin surrounding the toenail moist and soft which makes it easy for the toenail to cut into it.

Chronic cases of ingrown toenails require medical attentions. Talk to your GP or seek the attention of a podiatrist (a medical professional who specializes in treatment of foot diseases and conditions). Surgery may be required to remove a section of (or the entire) the affected toenail. This can be done as an outpatient procedure under local anesthesia.