Zocdoc Answers

Medical questions & health advice by board certified doctors

"Why does my big toe hurt when I apply too much pressure?"


The edge of the toe where it hurts is swollen. The nail does not seem to be overgrown. I haven't injured the foot.


It is difficult to know what is going on without more information or being able to take a look. Therefore, I am going to assume that the area where the toe hurts is on the side of the nail, right where the nail touches the skin. Is the skin also red and warm to the touch? If so, this is likely a paronychia, which is a fancy word to describe an infection of the skin fold at the edge of the nail.

See a doctor who can help

Find a Podiatrists near you

Often, paronychia can be treated with simple measures and do not require medical attention. To begin with, avoid picking or squeezing it as this can make it worse. Apply a generous amount of a topical antibiotic ointment, and soak the area in warm salt water several times a day. If this does not work, of if the area of redness begins to spread, if you have fever, or if the pain increases you will have to see your doctor. Sometimes paronychia requires lancing open to drain a pocket of pus or oral antibiotics to help get the infection down. Your primary care doctor will be able to help you make this decision and give you antibiotics if necessary.

Zocdoc Answers is for general informational purposes only and is not a substitute for professional medical advice. If you think you may have a medical emergency, call your doctor (in the United States) 911 immediately. Always seek the advice of your doctor before starting or changing treatment. Medical professionals who provide responses to health-related questions are intended third party beneficiaries with certain rights under Zocdoc’s Terms of Service.