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Why does my big toe nail always become ingrown?

Causes for ingrown toenails include injury to the toe or foot, heredity, tight shoegear or hosiery, and/or improper trimming, any of which can result in damage or injury to the root of the nail, called the matrix. As the damaged nail grows outward, it also tends to grow down into the skin. Once the skin is punctured, infection occurs. The symptoms then include severe pain, swelling and drainage. Many times, the patient will try to perform “bathroom surgery,” which will usually only provide temporary relief.

To permanently cure this painful problem, the defective nail root must be removed. First the toe is numbed using a local anesthetic and the damaged section of nail is removed. A chemical is then applied to the nail root area to destroy the nail cells and to insure that the offending portion of nail does not grow back. Postoperative care includes foot soaks, application of topical medicine to the wound and a band-aid covering on a daily basis. Patients are usually seen at weekly intervals initially and then return two to three months afterwards for a final check to make sure that portion of the nail has not grown back.


A podiatrist, or doctor of podiatric medicine (DPM), treats conditions that affect the foot and ankle. Podiatrists treat patients of all ages for problems such as stress fractures, arthritis, toe and joint deformities, toenail problems, and flat or fallen arches using either therapeutic or surgical treatments

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