Are Ingrown Toenails Genetic?

March 3, 2022

If you’ve had an ingrown toenail arise out of seemingly nowhere, and other members of your family have had ingrown toenails in the past, you may be wondering if ingrown toenails are genetic and if you’re going to keep getting them for years to come. Here’s a look into how and why ingrown toenails can run in families, as well as potential causes of ingrown toenails, and what you can do today to relieve your pain and stop them from coming back for good – even if they are genetic. 

Are Ingrown Nails Inherited?

Yes, the characteristics that increase the risk of a person developing an ingrown toenail can be passed down through families. These may include:
  • The shape of the nail. Nails that are naturally curved, pinched or involuted are more likely to become ingrown, and the trait for the shape of the nail can be genetic
  • The amount of skin surrounding the nail (or its volume). The more skin you have surrounding the nail that may get pushed against the nail, the more likely the nail is to grow into this skin, and this characteristic can be genetic
  • The shape of the toe itself makes it more susceptible to an ingrown toenail, which can also be inherited
This means that it’s not the ingrown nail that is passed down, but factors that make it more likely for the nail to naturally grow into the skin. With this said, it’s important to know that just because you may have some genetic risk factors, does not mean that you will definitely develop an ingrown toenail. For some people, their ingrown toenails are caused by something completely different, like one of the causes below. So even if your family members struggle with ingrown toenails, doesn’t mean you definitely will too.

What Else Causes Ingrown Nails?

Aside from the shape of the toe or the nail, other factors that increase your risk of an ingrown toenail include:
  • Damage to the nail can increase its likelihood to become ingrown. This may be nail thickening, changes in the shape of the nail following trauma (like something being dropped on the toe) or from fungal nail infections.
  • Tight footwear can create pressure on the sides of the toes that can push the nail into the surrounding skin.
  • Pulling or picking the nails. Pulling the top of the nail off, instead of cutting them in a straight line with a tool, can leave a spicule at the edge of the nail where it is ripped off, often deep down the side of the nail where it is not visible or felt – until it starts growing and pierces the skin.
  • An improper nail cutting technique. Nails should be cut in a straight, clean line with no fraying or split edges and no curves. Curving or ‘rounding’ the edges of the nail down the side can encourage the nail to grow curved down into the skin.

Fixing Your Ingrown Toenail For Good

Regardless of whether your ingrown toenail is genetic or caused by something else, you can prevent your ingrown toenails from coming back for good. This is done using a procedure called a partial nail avulsion (PNA), performed by our experienced, registered podiatrists in our Remuera clinic. A partial nail avulsion removes the small portion of the nail that has grown into the skin, which usually looks like a small sharp spicule. Once the nail is removed, the skin can finally close and heal, and your pain will resolve. What makes the procedure permanent is that after removing the portion of the nail with the spicule, we also apply a solution to destroy the nail-growing cells at the base of the nail, meaning that this very small portion of the nail will not regrow. It will just close and heal. A PNA is a professional, safe and effective solution and one of the most common procedures carried out in our clinic. The benefits of a PNA include:
  • The procedure is simple for you – just sit back and relax, there is no prep work required
  • It’s quick! The total appointment time is one hour, and the procedure time is often around 20 minutes
  • The procedure is performed under local anaesthetic so is pain-free
  • You do not need to take any additional time off work or school following the procedure and can go home immediately
  • You do not need any special boots or braces while the toe heals
  • The procedure causes very little discomfort afterwards, however, painkillers can be taken should discomfort arise
  • We dress your toe, provide you with a take-home dressing pack and re-dressing instructions
  • We monitor your progress to ensure it is healing well
  • Recovery time is anywhere from two weeks to two months barring any complications such as infection. We provide you with all the dressings, topical antibacterial solutions and ointments, the post-op shoe and aftercare instructions, all tailored individually to your needs

Ingrown Nail Solutions For The Whole Family

Ingrown toenails are painful and frustrating – but just because they run in your family, doesn’t mean you have to put up with them for the rest of your life. Come in for a consultation with Auckland’s leading podiatry team specialising in ingrown toenail treatment. Book your appointment with our experienced podiatrists by calling 09 523 2333 or book online here.