Ingrown Toenail Management

Am Fam Physician. 2019 Aug 1;100(3):158-164.


Ingrown toenails account for approximately 20% of foot problems in primary care. The great toe is most often affected. Ingrown toenails occur most commonly in young men, and nail care habits and footwear are most often contributory factors. No consensus has been reached for the best treatment approach, but ingrown nails may be nonsurgically or surgically treated. Nonsurgical treatments are typically used for mild to moderate ingrown nails, whereas surgical approaches are used in moderate and severe cases. Simple nonsurgical palliative measures include correcting inappropriate footwear, managing hyperhidrosis and onychomycosis, soaking the affected toe followed by applying a mid- to high-potency topical steroid, and placing wisps of cotton or dental floss under the ingrown lateral nail edge. Application of a gutter splint to the ingrown nail edge to separate it from the lateral fold provides immediate pain relief. A cotton nail cast made from cotton and cyanoacrylate adhesive, taping the lateral nail fold, or orthonyxia may also alleviate mild to moderate ingrown toenail. Surgical approaches seek to remove the interaction between the nail plate and the nail fold to eliminate local trauma and inflammatory reaction. These approaches are superior to nonsurgical ones for preventing recurrence. The most common surgical approach is partial avulsion of the lateral edge of the nail plate. Matrixectomy further prevents recurrence and can be performed through surgical, chemical, or electrosurgical means.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Ambulatory Surgical Procedures
  • Conservative Treatment
  • Humans
  • Nails / surgery*
  • Nails, Ingrown / therapy*
  • Self Care
  • Severity of Illness Index
  • Shoes
  • Splints