Why does an ingrown nail hurt so badly? Basically, what happens is that your nail - made from hard, dead protein called keratin – curves as it grows, pushing back into the skin of the toe to cause a pressure buildup, or puncturing the skin to trigger inflammation and pain.

Aside from the pain, does an ingrown nail pose any danger? Infection can develop when an ingrown nail continues to grow beneath the skin. This can be especially troublesome for people with diabetes or poor circulation. In rare instances, an infected toenail has led to serious bone infections and foot ulcers that require amputation.

What causes an ingrown nail? You may simply have a hereditary predisposition to get ingrown nails. Pressure or compression from tight shoes can also cause ingrown nails. Or you could blame incorrect nail cutting. To prevent ingrown nails, don't trim nails too short. Trim straight across or in a slight “U” shape, allowing the edges of the nail to grow slightly beyond the skin.

What should I do about an ingrown nail? One thing you shouldn't do is dig into your skin to try to pull out the ingrown nail. You could further damage your skin and increase your risk of infection. Instead, soften the skin around the nail by soaking in warm, soapy water. Adding Epsom salts to the water and soaking the foot 3 to 4 times daily will help lessen the pain and inflammation. And once softened, you may be able to reach under the ingrown nail and lift it and encourage the nail to grow above the skin. You might also choose to consult your doctor or a podiatrist to help you safely extract an ingrown nail. If you have diabetes, poor circulation, or suspect that your foot might be infected, see your doctor for treatment. Ask your doctor whether you should see a podiatrist regularly for proper care of your feet and nails.