Medical questions & health advice by board certified doctors

"How come my big toe is swollen and is hurting?"

ZocdocAnswersHow come my big toe is swollen and is hurting?


I recently noticed that my big toe is getting more swollen on the left side of one toenail. It is a bit blue and it is painful to touch. I am 26, female, and I am not taking any medications. I have tried to put some tiger balm on it to sooth the pain, but I am not sure what this is. What is this, and should I go to the doctor for this?


This sounds a lot like a paronychia. Paronychia is an inflammation and infection of the fold of skin at the side of the nail. Often it is caused by an in grown toenail. It can also be caused by breaks or cuts in the skin and it can be made worse by wearing tight shoes. Many cases of paronychia can be treated at home with a combination of wearing comfortable shoes, soaking the affected nail daily in warm salt water, and applying an antibacterial ointment to the affected area. However, if you do not notice any improvement with these methods then you will need to talk to your primary care doctor. This is because sometimes a paronychia can lead to a collection of pus under the skin in the nail fold, and this may need to be lanced and drained in order to permit proper healing. Similarly, if the redness and inflammation is quite advanced, you may need an oral antibiotic medication prescribed by your doctor to get it under control. I suggest setting up this appointment as soon as possible. Your doctor will examine the area and will be able to help you determine which is the appropriate treatment plan.

Need more info?

See a podiatrist today

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.