Bodyworks: Ingrowing Toenail

How to recognise it, how to overcome it

by Patrick Milroy

You’ll feel pain down the side of the nail of the big toe (hallux), especially to the touch.

The signs are obvious – and unpleasant. There’ll be reddening, festering and ultimately discharge of pus, caused by the side of the nail growing into the adjoining skin.

Medical investigations
A swab of the pus will usually confirm the growth of bacteria.

What else could it be?
IGTN could be confused with an infection of the nail bed, or with sub-ungual haematomas (stubbed toes) – see below.

Proper nail care is the key. Cut them squarely and not in a curve, lift out the edges gently twice a day and support these raised sides with little cotton wool balls or slivers of silver foil. Clean around your nails with an antiseptic wash, pat them dry with tissues, then put on a protective dry dressing and clean socks.

Medical treatment
A swab will usually confirm that antibiotics are the right course of action. If the condition becomes recurrent, removal of the nail and growth bed is a drastic but definitive solution.

Can you run through it?
You may be able to run if you wear shoes with plenty of toe space to prevent pressure and pain. You should definitely avoid racing until the condition has been cleared up. Without treatment, the signs and symptoms will worsen.

Recovery time
Antibiotics should have you back to full speed within a week, but this will at least double if surgery is required.

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Ingrowing Toenail, toe

Discuss this article

Does anyone know, does running cause ingrowing nails? I`ve suffered from them for years, had 3 operations. But on one big toe, every couple of months i`m digging and poking with the scisors, and a lot of pain. I seem to get claw like bits at the side that realy dig deep into the flesh?
Posted: 11/02/2003 at 21:34

An additional point - a topical antimicrobial silver dressing on the wound may well kill the infection preventing the need for  antibiotics. If the infection is systemic (in your blood stream) then antiobiotics would definitely be needed.
Posted: 08/01/2008 at 21:19

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