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Ingrown and Fungus Toenails: Causes and Treatment

What Are Ingrown Nails?

Ingrown nails are generated by the sides of a nail edge encroaching and growing into the skin of the toe. When the toenail projects into the skin, people will experience intense discomfort, severe in some cases. Under normal conditions, ingrown nail growth occurs in a vertical direction. Typically, ingrown toenails are tender and give rise to significant swelling and painful symptoms. Sometimes, they may release a yellowish fluid as well. The more complicated this condition is, the more likely a physician will be needed. This is especially pertinent if the nail causes an infection.

Who Develops This Condition?

Some people are more prone to the development of ingrown toenails than others. For example, children and teens who are highly athletic, those with excessive foot sweating or repeat foot injuries, people with diabetes, obesity, or long toes, and those born with a foot defect or deformity. Additional risk factors include poor hygiene and fungal nail disease.


In most cases, larger toes (especially the big toe) are affected by this condition. However, fingernails are seldom affected by the condition as well. Infections can arise when bacteria and fungi infiltrate the skin of the feet. Because the foot tends to cultivate a warm and moist environment, it can provide the fodder necessary for infections to thrive, including the infamous Staphylococcus bacteria. When this condition is complicated, it results in a localized infection of the area. You should consult a doctor if your ingrown nails are tender, infected, or fail to improve between 5-10 days that the infection began. If you are suffering from an infection, you may note redness and swelling, along with yellow drainage.

What Is Nail Fungus?

Nail fungus is a condition that results from a fungus infection of the nails. This condition may initially reflect whitish or yellowish color tones, and then progress into a thickened, crusty outer layer that covers a broader area of the toe. The symptoms may include a distorted toe shape, and dullness, a lack of luster or chine in the nail, and a thickened crust layer. It is critical to consult with a doctor during the first sign of infection. This condition arises when your foot fosters a warm, moist environment. Fungus can also invade the foot and toe areas through small incisions.


Both toe fungus and ingrown nails can be treated through specialized laser surgical treatments, which are designed to eliminate surrounding infections, as well as the infected layers of the toe and nail. It generally is not safe to try to treat an ingrown toenail yourself and normally requires the care of a physician. For more information and consultation, give our office a call to ensure the condition does not worsen.

Dr. Ian S. Goldbaum is a Podiatric Physician and Surgeon serving patients in Boca Raton, Delray Beach and Boynton Beach.

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