Ingrown Toenail

Toenail anatomy

To understand what an ingrown toenail is, we first must understand the anatomy of the toenail. A toenail is a keratinous plate that covers the tip of each digit of the hands and feet. The nail plate has a base end-to-side folds. The tip of the nail is usually free-floating. This is where you would trim your nails.

Each of the digits of the foot has a toenail associated with it. Each toenail gets smaller as the toe gets smaller. Often times people will barely see a fifth toenail because with age, the baby toe becomes more and more rotated.

The nail plate sits atop the nail bed. The nail plate is a separate and distinct anatomical location though it is attached at the nail folds on 3 sides of the toenail. At the very base of the toenail one might see a white half-moon shaped structure. This is called the lunula. The lunula is the place where the cells that create the toenail grow. If you use your imagination, the remaining part of the lunula is actually under the skin so that half-moon might be considered a full round circle.

What is an ingrown toenail?

An ingrown toenail happens when the corners of the nail bend and grow into the surrounding skin. Ingrown toenails can be characterized by a red, hot, swollen side of the toe most often one side, but can be on both sides of the toe. When the nail pierces the skin, it can become infected, and create pus, and pain.

But, many people have ingrown toenails that are asymptomatic. It is only when the ingrown toenail becomes painful and infected that you need the care of a podiatrist.

Causes of ingrown toenails

There are many causes of an ingrown toenail including: pressure, trauma, the way toenails were cut, or heredity.

Ingrown toenails can be problems for many different reasons including pain, infection, and embarrassment.

Learn more about ingrown toenails

  • Diagnosis if an Ingrown Toenail
  • Treatments of an Ingrown Toenail