by Dr Trushna Bhatt

An ingrown toenail, medically known as onychocryptosis, is a widespread nail disease. It can occur at any age. Millions are affected by it and about 5% to 10% have chronic ingrown toenails.

It is mostly related to foot care and does not differentiate between genders. Women tend to suffer from ingrown toenails more often than men due to restrictive footwear and nail care.

What is Ingrown Toenail?

An ingrown toenail is a misnomer. The toenail does not grow into the toe. The side appears to grow inwards as the pressure exerted on it forces it into the skin.

An ingrown toenail is a disease where the side - one or both - irritates the surrounding skin.

High pressure from the sides is the primary cause of irritation. The pressure can be both internal – nail’s arch, or external – tight socks or footwear.

The pressure initially causes minor discomfort. Your toe will be red and slightly inflamed. But this can quickly turn into a significant problem if the pressure forces the nail to cut the skin.

Mostly affecting the big toe, ingrown toenails can also affect any other toenail or also fingernail. Usually, it affects only one side, but on rare occasions, it can grow into both sides.

Minor cases can be addressed by correcting the condition that caused it in the first place.

Often it will come and repeatedly resolve until it is treated appropriately. If left untreated, it can become severe.

Causes of Ingrown Toenails

Ingrown nails tend to be created and made worse due to several factors, which also include poor footwear, injury, and heredity factors. The most common causes are:

1. Inappropriately cut nails

The nails, as a rule, have to be cut straight. When cut at an angle, sometimes a small (fishhook-like) piece is left behind in the corner. As the nail continues growing, the little bit gets pushed into the skin.

2. Injury

Nails grow from the nail matrix or nail root. The nail matrix is where the nail’s shape is determined. Any injury to the nail root can result in the nail to grow inwards.

3. Heredity

Sometimes, hereditary factors also play a role in the repeated recurrence of ingrown toenails. Even if the nails are cut properly, they might grow inwards.

Treatment of Ingrown Toenail

Fortunately, treating ingrown toenails does not require any significant treatment process or surgery. It can be treated using a few household items.

Treating the curved toenail can help in preventing pain and recurrence as well as reduce the chances of infection. One of the common at-home remedies is Epsom salt.

Epsom salts, unlike table salt, is a magnesium sulfate compound. It has found use as a pain reliever and a healing agent for hundreds of years.

Steps To Treat Ingrown Toenail

1. Mix about 1 to 2 tablespoon of Epsom salt (unscented) in a tub or bucket filled with clean, warm water. You should be able to put your feet in the tub or bucket comfortably.

2. Soak the infected foot into the bucket or tub of warm water. Let the foot soak in the water for nearly 20 to 30 minutes.

3. Remove the foot from the water. Dry it with a clean towel.

4. Use nail file and clippers to remove the small piece and re-shape the curved toenail to a straight line. Make sure that the nail is not cut or filed too short.

Repeat the above steps twice a week till the time the nails start growing straight again. Curved toenails dig into the skin which can result in the growth of ingrown toenails. Keeping them straight will help in preventing further problems.


Epsom salt is a safe add-on home alternative to treat the pain caused by the ingrown toenail.

This option, however, should be first discussed with your doctor. This especially holds for diabetics, pregnant women, and people with heart problems.

While there have been success stories about the healing properties of Epsom salt, more research is required to know the effectiveness.[/h2]