Curved Toenails(Causes, Symptoms and the Best Treatment 2020 )

curved toenail

Causes, Symptoms, and Treatment of Curved Toenails

The curved toenails are also referred to as an ingrown nail or pincer nails describes a condition where the toenails curve inwards towards the skin instead of them following the traditional straight, outward, and upward trajectory way of nail growth. The pressure is exerted by the curved nail to the adjacent soft skin thus resulting in pain and in some cases swelling or redness. When left untreated, it can result in an infection. 

Symptoms of curved toenails

The major symptoms of curved toenails include:

  1. The skin around the toe becomes swollen or hard.
  2. Accumulation of fluid around the toe region.
  3. Feeling of pain when the toe is under pressure.
  4. Infection (late stages)-an infection is typically experienced when the condition reaches its later stages. The main symptoms of the infection include swelling of the skin, pus, constant bleeding, pain in the absence of pressure and the infected area will feel warmer than any other region of the feet.

Causes of curved toenails

There are multiple causes of curved toenails and they include the following:

  1. Incorrect trimming of the nails-this is the most common cause of pincer nails. Individuals who cut their nails while following the curve of the nail are at risk of suffering from a curved nail. The most ideal way of trimming nails is cutting in a straight line and not making them shorter than normal. 
  2. Small nail beds-this This refers to individuals who have small toes ergo a small nail bed which leads to a different growth pattern. 
  3. Trauma-trauma to the toenails mainly occurs when the toe comes into contact with a blunt object or when something falls on the small toe. The main challenge after a collision or fall is the change of pattern of growth which typically leads to the development of a curved toenail. The big toe is the main culprit of curved nails caused by trauma as most individuals have injuries on the big toe.
  4. Tight shoes-individuals who wear tight shoes for a prolonged period of time may develop pincer nails due to the pressure put on the toenails due to crowding. Toenails are rather sensitive thus tight shoes both in terms of length and width may lead the nails to be curved. It’s essential that one tries out shoes before they purchase them and avoid intuitive guessing.
  5. Poor hygiene- another common cause of pincer nails is poor hygiene which is brought about by keeping the feet wet or failing to trim the nails in time which will most probably lead to the development of curved toenails. 
  6. Poor diet-nails just like any other part of the body require certain nutrients to develop. The most vital nutrients include Vitamin B12, zinc, and iron. Taking foods that are deficient in the three nutrients may lead to curved toenails since they’ll become brittle. 
  7. Genetics-it may be a genetic problem that one faces with the curved toenails thus such individuals should take extra care and maintain top-quality hygiene. These individuals may suffer chronic pain as they may have numerous curved toes thus they need to have regular visits to their doctor.

 Possible Complications 

When curved toenails are left untreated it may ultimately lead to a bone infection if the condition becomes serious. Individuals with diabetes are at more risk when there is a bone infection as it often leads to damage to nerves and disrupted blood flow to the feet. When the pincer nail occurs after an injury, it’s crucial that any cut is attended to to minimize the risk of infection and hasten to heal. Decay and gangrene (death of tissue) are also a possibility when the cut region develops into foot cancer. 

Preventive Measures of curved toenails

To avoid getting a curved toenail, one can apply specific strategies which entail:

  1. Utilization of protective footwear if one works in an environment with certain risks to one’s feet.
  2. Proper trimming of the toenails using the straight-line technique.
  3. Keep the toenails short.
  4. Wear shoes that can fit properly both in terms of length and width. One should also avoid wearing shoes made out of hard material without socks or a protective cover.
  5. Regular feet check especially for diabetic patients who are at a higher risk of getting more complications from pincer nails. 

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Diagnosis of a curved toenail is simple for clinicians as they only have to base their final decision on the symptoms presented by a patient. The clinician can additionally perform a physical exam to ascertain the symptoms and support their diagnosis. 

Treatment of curved toenails

There are numerous clinician-recommended and home-based treatment plans that one can adopt if they suffer from curved toenails. 

  1. The utilize curve correct-this approach refers to the use of a certain device that is fitted in the toe and brings the changes by pulling the edges of the nail apart to straighten it. To achieve perfect results, one must ensure their toenails are well cleaned and trimmed to match the length of the brace. This form of treatment is painless and easily applicable as a patient can install the device on their toe within a few minutes. The approach also creates a lasting solution to the curved toe problem.

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  1. Matrixectomy-this refers to a medical approach taken when the cause of the curved toenail is a thick nail. The nail is totally removed after one is injected with local anesthesia. 
  2. Partial nail removal-this approach entails the trimming of the edges of the curved nail by a professional and application of phenol to prevent further growth. 
  3. Nail lift-this method is applied when the curved nail is small therefore the clinician lifts the nail and places dental floss or cotton to prevent the nail from touching the skin. One requires to soak the toe and replace the dental floss or cotton daily. 

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Common Home Remedies

Soaking of the feet-the purpose of soaking one’s feet multiple times in salted warm water is to reduce swelling and also relieve pain that comes from swelling. Application of antibiotic cream-the antibiotic cream is used to fight or treat the infection. A patient recovering from a curved toe should also stick up wearing open shoes until they fully recover. Lastly, one can also take over-the-counter pain relievers such as acetaminophen, ibuprofen, or naproxen sodium.



Al Suwaidi, A. M. A. (2019). U.S. Patent Application No. 16/332,784.

Ingrown toenails. (2019, December 10). Mayo Clinic.

Leung, A. K., Barankin, B., & Leong, K. F. (2020). An atlas of nail disorders, part 2. Consultant, 60(4), 16-18.

Terrill, A. J., Green, K. J., Salerno, A., & Butterworth, P. A. (2020). Risk factors for infection following ingrowing toenail surgery: a retrospective cohort study. Journal of Foot and Ankle Research, 13(1), 1-9.


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