Toenails hurt when they're long

Cutting toenails: you should know that

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Written by Astrid Clasen • Medical editor

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Too short, too sloping, with the side spur left standing ... When trimming your toenails you can do a lot wrong. Here you can find out what consequences this can have and how to cut your toenails correctly.

Can't be that bad if the nails get too short - after all, they grow back again ... right? But problems quickly arise when toenails become longer again after being cut incorrectly. And it comes like this:

  • If you cut the toenail too short at the corners, the skin will bulge over the nail there.
  • The growing nail now penetrates further and further into the protruding skin and injures it in the process.

Mistakes in cutting your toenails promote ingrown toenails. Most often this happens on the big toe. The consequences are more than unpleasant.

The skin lesion caused by the ingrown toenail becomes infected. This inflammation is clearly noticeable: the affected area is reddened, swollen, feels warmer and hurts. It can also ooze, bleed or fester and smell unpleasant - especially if bacteria have gotten into the wound.

Warning: If you tamper with the area to reduce the discomfort or to clean your toenail, you may be doing even more damage.

Over time, new tissue can build up around the inflammation and overgrow the toenail. Because of its fine-grained surface, this tissue is also known as granulation tissue (lat. granule = Granule).

Without the right treatment, bacterial inflammation can spread to the deeper layers of the skin and the underlying tissue: this is what experts call phlegmon. In extreme cases, even the bones and bone marrow can become inflamed, which means osteomyelitis.

Reading tip:Ingrown toenail? You can do that!

Ingrown toenails are common. However, if you always trim your toenails correctly, you have a good chance of avoiding the problem.

Trimming toenails correctly: Here's how

You can use nail scissors, pliers or clippers to cut your toenails, or you can use a nail file: The main thing is that you are comfortable with your tools and that you keep the following tips in mind when caring for your nails.

Do not round off toenails

Make sure you clip the toenails straight. Rounded nail corners or a pointed nail shape increase the risk of ingrown toenails. If the corners of the nails are too pointed to scratch or stick to your socks, you can file them down easily.

Don't cut your nails too short

When cutting, keep your toenails long enough to reach about the tip of your toe. The nail corners should lie freely on the side of the skin and grow forward over the skin level.

If you need any help

Some people find it difficult to cut their toenails themselves. For example, because they can barely reach their feet with their hands or because they cannot handle the nail scissors safely. Then it is advisable to seek help.

If you just want to have your toenails cut and your feet cared for, you can opt for cosmetic foot care (pedicures). However, you have to bear the costs yourself.

If you have abnormal changes in your feet (such as ingrown nails or athlete's foot) or other health problems (such as diabetes or rheumatism), medical foot care (podiatry) on prescription may be an option. It is best to talk to your doctor about this.

Attention: Not all podiatrists meet professional and hygienic standards. Because cosmetic foot care can in principle be carried out freely by any person without training - and even offer it as medical foot care. You can recognize trained specialists by the designation medical podiatrist or medical podiatrist (podiatrist).

Ingrown nails (Unguis incarnatus). Online information from the Society for Foot and Ankle Surgery e. V. (GFFC): (access date: 2.9.2020)

Online information from the Association of German Podologists (VDP) e. V .: (access date: 2.9.2020)

Ingrown toenail. Online information from the Institute for Quality and Efficiency in Health Care (IQWiG): (as of 7.2.2018)

Jauch, K.-W., et al. (Ed.): Basic training in surgery. Springer, Berlin Heidelberg 2013

Last content check:02.09.2020
Last change: 02.09.2020