An ingrown nail occurs with penetration of the tip of the nail edge into the flesh at the side of the nail, most commonly on the big toe. The nail has usually been torn, cut too short or shoes are too tight. This allows the skin at the end of the toe to override the end of the nail so that when the nail grows, the corner of the nail cuts into the flesh and causes damage, pain and infection in the affected flesh beside the nail.
Ingrown nail treatment is with antibiotic ointments and tablets for any infection. The ingrown corner of the nail must be allowed to break free of the skin by avoiding shoes and pulling the flesh away from the ingrowing nail corner with tape or regular massage. If this is unsuccessful, one of a number of minor operations may be necessary.
The most common operations involve cutting away the excess flesh that is growing over the nail, or cutting away a wedge of the nail, nail bed and tissue beside the nail (a wedge resection) to permanently narrow the nail. Surgery usually cures an ingrown toenail but there is still a 20% recurrence rate.