The Risks of Untreated Ingrown Toenails

Ingrown toenails are a common foot problem caused by various factors, including improper toenail trimming, wearing shoes that are too tight, or having naturally curved toenails. While many people may think of ingrown toenails as a minor issue, the truth is that an untreated ingrown toenail can lead to serious complications and even require surgery. In this article, we'll explore the risks and potential complications that can arise from untreated ingrown toenails and the preventative measures and treatment options available to address the issue.

What is an Ingrown Toenail?

An ingrown toenail occurs when the edge of the toenail grows into the skin, causing pain and discomfort and potentially leading to an infection. The condition is most common in the big toe and can be caused by various factors, including toenails that are cut too short, curved toenails, or shoes that are too tight and put pressure on the toenail. Ingrown toenails can also occur due to an injury to the toenail or a medical condition that impacts the shape of the toenails.

The Dangers of Ignoring an Ingrown Toenail

An ingrown toenail should never be ignored or left untreated, as it can lead to various serious complications. Some of the potential risks and complications of untreated ingrown toenails include the following:

Risk of Infection

When left untreated, an ingrown toenail can infect, leading to redness, swelling, and pus. Infection can spread quickly and can even become severe enough to require hospitalization.

Spread of Infection

If infection from an ingrown toenail is not treated, it can spread to other parts of the foot and even the body, potentially leading to life-threatening sepsis.

Loss of Toenail

In some cases, an untreated ingrown toenail can cause the toenail to become so damaged that it falls off. This can be painful and may require treatment from a podiatrist.

Sore Ingrown Toenail

Chronic Pain

Untreated ingrown toenails can cause chronic pain and discomfort, making walking or wearing shoes difficult.

Difficulty Walking

Severe cases of ingrown toenails can make it difficult to walk or perform normal daily activities. Sometimes, individuals may need to take time off work or avoid certain activities until the issue is resolved.


In the most severe cases, an untreated ingrown toenail can lead to a loss of blood flow to the toe or foot, which can require amputation.

Preventing and Treating Ingrown Toenails

While the risks and potential complications of untreated ingrown toenails can be serious, preventative measures can be taken to avoid the issue, as well as treatments available to address it if it does occur. Here are some tips for preventing and treating ingrown toenails:

Proper Foot Care

One of the best ways to prevent ingrown toenails is to practice proper foot care. This includes keeping your feet clean and dry, wearing shoes that fit properly, and avoiding toenails that are cut too short or curved.

Trimming Toenails

When trimming your toenails, cutting them straight across rather than rounding them at the corners is important. This can help prevent the toenail from growing into the soft tissue of the toe.

Professional Treatment

If you are experiencing an ingrown toenail that is causing discomfort or pain, it's important to seek professional treatment from a podiatrist. A podiatrist can provide treatment options such as removing the ingrown portion of the toenail, prescribing antibiotics to treat infection, or even performing surgery to correct the issue.

Ingrown Toenail

Wearing Proper Footwear

Wearing shoes that fit properly can also help prevent ingrown toenails. Avoid wearing shoes that are too tight or narrow, and opt for shoes with a wider toe box to give your toes enough room to move.

Splinting or Taping

Sometimes, a podiatrist may recommend using a splint or taping to help reposition the toenail and prevent it from growing into the skin.


Orthotics are custom shoe inserts that can help support and alleviate pressure on your feet. This can be especially helpful for those with flat feet or other foot conditions that can increase the risk of ingrown toenails.


In more severe cases, surgery may be necessary to correct an ingrown toenail. This may involve removing a portion of the toenail or even the entire toenail to prevent future issues.

When to See a Podiatrist

If you are experiencing any symptoms of an ingrown toenail, such as redness, swelling, or pain, it's important to seek treatment from a podiatrist as soon as possible. A podiatrist can provide a proper diagnosis and recommend the best course of treatment to alleviate your symptoms and prevent complications. It's especially important to seek treatment if you have diabetes or poor blood flow to your feet, as these conditions can increase the risk of complications and require more aggressive treatment.


An untreated ingrown toenail can lead to serious complications and even require surgery, so it's important to take preventative measures and seek treatment as soon as symptoms arise. By practicing proper foot care, wearing proper footwear, and seeking professional treatment, you can help prevent the risks and potential complications of an ingrown toenail. Don't wait until it's too late – take action to protect your foot health today.

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