Infections that can be caused by an ingrown toenail

Updated March 23, 2017

Most commonly occurring in either of the two big toes, ingrown toenails are a medical condition where the edge of your nail grows past the nail bed and into the skin that surrounds your toenail. Generally, an ingrown toenail can cause swelling and redness in the affected toe. Along with these symptoms, varying types of infections can develop as the result of an ingrown toenail.


Osteomyelitis, or a bone infection, can develop in cases of an untreated ingrown toenail. This condition occurs when bacteria gets into your toe from the ingrown nail and eventually spreads to the bone. Symptoms of a bone infection in a toe include swelling, pain, warmth and pus at the site of the infection. Upon touching the side of your toe with the ingrown nail, pus may be expelled where your toenail meets the flesh of your toe.

Foot Ulcer

An ingrown toenail that is severe or untreated can result in a foot ulcer. This danger of this type of infection is that foot ulcers are open sores which can be quite difficult to heal. For people who have poor circulation or diabetes, it is very important to care for ingrown toenails and ward off a foot ulcer as these conditions can drastically impact the severity of a foot ulcer.


The medical condition of gangrene is defined as the decaying and eventual death of tissue. While gangrene typically results from blood flow being stopped to a particular area of the body, it can also be caused by a bacterial infection. Generally, gangrene attacks the extremities such as fingers, toes and limbs. This severe condition can also affect internal organs and muscles. Gangrene is often treated through antibiotics or surgery to remove the dead tissue.


With the germs present in the event of an ingrown toenail, there is the potential to develop a cellulitis infection. As a bacterial infection of the skin, cellulitis can grow where a toenail is growing into the flesh outside the nail bed. The affected area will become tender, swollen, red in colour and hot to the touch. Cellulitis can be treated with either oral or intravenous antibiotics.

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