May 8, 2009

Symptoms, Causes & Treatment for Ingrown Fingernails

Posted in Category : Common Ailments

An ingrown fingernail is a condition wherein the border of the nail sinks back into the skin. The nail starts to grow inwards and below the skin, which causes pain, and in some cases, a severe infection. Inadequate nail care, an injury or an accident, and disfigured nails are usually the causes of ingrown nails. Ingrown nails can be very painful and can cause inflammation, sore skin, and sensitivity in the affected area.


The most prominent symptoms of ingrown nails are as follows:

  • Sensitive skin
  • Redness
  • Swelling
  • Discoloration
  • Pus around the skin
  • Bulge beneath the skin


The causes of ingrown nails are mostly poor nail maintenance, nail biting, curved nail shapes, nail deformity, sharp nail edges, and long nails. Often, incorrect cutting and trimming of nails also leads to ingrown nails.


It is very easy to treat ingrown fingernails at home, and proper after care may see the condition gone for good. However, it is best to consult a doctor first to determine the severity of the condition. In some cases, medical intervention is absolutely necessary.

Here are some easy steps to remove ingrown fingernails at home:

  • Trim the nail that is embedded in the skin with clean sterilised clippers. This may be very painful and hard, but little courage will help. Cut the sharp nail edges carefully.
  • Take a bowl of lukewarm saline water and soak the fingers in it two to three times a day. This will soften the nail and it will come out easily.
  • Ingrown fingernails are prone to infection. Rub an antibacterial cream or an ointment to the affected area.
  • Tuck in a strip of waxy dental floss beneath the ingrown fingernail for proper growth. The strip will support and push the nail up and prevent the fingernail from growing inward into the skin. If the dental floss strip is not available, replace it with a small ball of cotton wool. Keep doing this till the fingernail is healed and normal.
  • When the fingernail is revived and healthy, do not let the infection affect your nails again.
  • Look after your nail health. Trim them properly and settle for a mid length. Give up on too long or too short nail lengths.
  • File the nails into a smooth straight shape, just above the skin.
  • Keep your nails clean and soak them in olive oil for ten minutes once or twice a week for better nail health.
  • Go for regular cleaning of nails at reputed salons or you could try a DIY home manicure.

Ingrown fingernails caused by nail biting or injury can result in serious infections of the fingernails known as paronychia in medical terms. There are two main classifications of the disease.

  • Acute paronychia: Acute paronychia is the bacterial fingernail infection caused by an injury. It is characterized by pain, swelling and sensitivity in the area around the fingernail.
  • Chronic paronychia: Chronic paronychia is caused by the fungal infection, and the symptoms appear gradually and slowly. It is typified by swelling, soreness and redness around the fingernails.

Acute paronychia can be treated at home with conventional dipping of fingernails in lukewarm water twice or thrice a day. However, if pus accumulates around the nail, consult your doctor. An antibiotic treatment may be recommended for moderate to severe infection. If needed, the pus can be drained out of the area or a part of the nail may be taken off for complete drainage of the area. An antifungal medication may be prescribed to treat chronic paronychia.

When is medical help necessary?

Home treatment for fingernail infection is a convenient and an easy option. Nonetheless, there are some conditions wherein it is important to seek the advice of a medical specialist.

  • If you are suffering from diabetes
  • If the pus or white fluid builds up beneath or around the nails
  • If you catch fever or if the infection spreads to your fingers
  • If the symptoms persist for more than a week

Dos and Don’ts

Healthy and clean fingernails are the only safeguards against ingrown fingernails. Most of us tend to ignore the area or just look after it for cosmetic enhancement. However, fingernails go through maximum wear and tear, so it is imperative to take proper care of them. There are some dos and don’ts of nail health, which can help prevent ingrown nail infection.


  • Clean your nails everyday and dry them properly
  • File and cut your nails frequently
  • Moisturise your nails. Smooth in some moisturiser, nail cream or hand lotion


  • Avoid nail biting
  • Do not badger your cuticles
  • Be careful while cutting hangnails
  • Home treat conditions

Ingrown fingernails are generally considered to be a benign and ordinary condition. It is easily treatable at home and proper precautions can prevent it from resurfacing again. In addition to their cosmetic and appearance value, nails are an indicator of the internal well being of the human body. Cleanliness and maintenance will seal their long-term heath and attractive presentation.