Curved Toenails – Causes, Symptoms And Treatments


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Curved toenails, also called pincer nails, refer to an awkward growth of the toenails into the surrounding skin rather than an outward and upward growth. The toenail exerts so much pressure on the adjacent skin until it grows inward resulting in a situation called ingrown toenail. Curved toenails can be very painful especially in the case of ingrown toenails. Embedment of the nail in the surrounding skin causes pain, redness as well as swelling. It can quickly develop an infection if left untreated.

Symptoms of a curved toenail 

  • Early-stage: 
  • Adjacent skin becomes tender, swollen, and hard
  • Collection of fluid around the toe
  • Pain under pressure 

Signs of an infection 

Certain signs point towards possible infection, they include:

  • Redness and swelling of the skin
  • Consistent pain even without the exertion of pressure 
  • The infected are will feel warmer than other areas
  • Pus
  • Constant bleeding 
  • Thickened skin

Curved toenails are caused by several factors including:

Incorrect cutting 

Incorrect cutting or trimming of the nail is unarguably the most popular cause of ingrown toenail. Usually, people cut the toenail by following the curve of the nail. This is not totally bad but could make the edge of the nail curl inwards hence digging into the skin. Cutting across the toenail in a straight line helps to avoid in-growth. While using this method, don’t cut the nail too short.

Small toes

There are people whose nail beds are too small for their toenails. This results in an uncharacteristic growth of the toenail. The toenail dogs into the surrounding skin causing ingrown toenail. 


Trauma is also a key cause of curved toenail. Damages to the toe, such as collision with blunt objects or falling of a heavy object on the toe, can cause an absolute change in the shape of the toenail. This uncharacteristic change in shape could result in an ingrown toenail. A key contributor to why big toe is the one most affected by curved toenail is trauma. More often than not, toenail bears the brunt of most accidents involving the toes.

Tight shoes

Tight shoes cause the toenails to be pressed hard against one another. If worn long enough, the pressure exerted on the toenails would cause them to start curling inwards. The big toe is also the most affected since it’s the biggest among the toes. Tight shoes are not just about the length but also the width.

Poor hygiene

Most people don’t learn to take care of their toenails until issues like curved toenails or toenails fungus arise. Proper care of the toenail is important for the permanent straight growth of the toenails. Keeping sweaty feet or wet feet promotes curved toenails. Wash your feet thoroughly every day and keep it dry. 


Iron and zinc are vital for proper nail growth. Hence, diets deficient of these elements could cause toenails to curve upwards. The deficiency of B12 is also believed to contribute to the curving of toenails. 


Genetics also plays a key role in the problem of curved toenails. People predisposed to this must be extra careful and pay good attention to proper toenail hygiene. 

Treatment of curved toenail 

Home remedies 

  • Soak the feet in warm water, mixed with few spoons of salt, for about 20 minutes 3 times per day.
  • Use a cotton ball to push way the adjacent skin from the edges of the toenail.  Soak the cotton in olive oil before usage.
  • Apply antibiotic ointments around the infected area to avoid the development of infection. 
  • Use over-the-counter medicines for the pain