An ingrown toenail refers to one that has broken the skin but they can be very painful before that and seeking treatment early might prevent a much more painful infected toe.
The real cause of most cases of ingrown toenail is the hereditary shape of the nail which makes it prone to happening, sometimes they are too wide or fan shaped (wider at the front edge) or one that curls over. Often our teenage patients get the blame for cutting them badly but it's usually the case that the problem was going to occur at some stage anyway. The bad news is that because of the underlying cause they do usually recur and a small operation to permanently remove part of the nail might be needed. But it really is a very small operation.
If struggling with an ingrown toenail it is best to see a podiatrist as soon as possible. If you have been prescribed antibiotics by your GP you should still get the toe looked at as soon as you can as in most cases there is a spike of nail that can be removed which will allow the toe to heal. Antibiotics will not magically disolve a spike of nail like this:
In most cases just the spike can be removed without anaesthetic and to every patients surprise, if skillfully done, it's not painful at all. In nearly all cases this gives instant relief and the long term treatment of removing a small part of the nail permanently can then be planned for a suitable time if the problem recurs.