What is pus on the toe?

An inflamed and sore toe, usually the big toe, is a common problem and is often associated with the formation of pus.
This is either already so superficial that it can be recognized as pus or is located in a deeper layer of tissue and can be assumed due to a reddened swelling. Pus arises from an accumulation of dead white blood cells (cells of the immune system) and therefore often accompanies inflammation. The most common causes of pus on the toe are ingrown toenails, nail bed inflammation, and wounds. Often the inflammation will heal on its own and the pus will go away.In some cases, however, medical therapy can be helpful and a doctor or podiatrist should be consulted.

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The most common cause of pus on the toe is an ingrown toenail. The pressure on the adjacent nail fold (skin wall adjacent to the nail) causes inflammation and pain, which makes it easier for bacteria to enter the tissue and causes a bacterial, purulent infection.

Another cause of pus on the toe is inflammation of the nail bed. In contrast to the ingrown toenail, small wounds in the skin, for example poor hygiene, lead to the entry of bacteria. This is made easier by the broken skin barrier and can lead to pus as part of an immune reaction. In addition to the two most common causes, injuries or circulatory disorders can also lead to a bacterial infection.

Read more on the topic: Inflammation of the toe

Ingrown toenail

An ingrown toenail (Unguis incarnatus) manifests itself as an inflamed and painful nail fold. In the case of a bacterial infection, this is usually also very red and swollen and pus may leak out.
Common causes are tight shoes, incorrect nail clipping and increased sweating. Familiar accumulation or foot misalignments are also possible. The symptoms are often alleviated by preventing the risk factors just mentioned. Other non-invasive measures are the application of ointments (e.g. Betaisodona ointment), tapes, relief of the nail palette with cotton wool, nail correction braces or an Emmert plastic.

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Read more on the topic: Ingrown toenail

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Athletes (joggers, soccer players, etc.) are particularly often affected by diseases of the foot. In some cases, the cause of the foot discomfort cannot be identified at first.
Therefore, the treatment of the foot (e.g. Achilles tendonitis, heel spurs, etc.) requires a lot of experience.
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Inflammation of the nail bed

An inflammation of the nail bed (onychia, paronychia) usually results from small wounds in the skin, for example due to poor hygiene or dry skin, and can affect both the tissue surrounding the nail (panaritium paraunguale) and the nail bed itself (panaritium subunguale).
Bacteria migrate (usually Staphylococcus aureus) and a pronounced infection occurs. This is accompanied by very severe pain and a feeling of pressure. Inflammation of the nail bed can often be treated conservatively with ointments or foot baths. In rare cases or with a chronic course, medical therapy or the administration of antibiotics may be necessary.

Here you can find more information on the topic: Inflammation of the nail bed on the toe

Concomitant symptoms

Accompanied by pus on the toe, severe pain, redness, restricted mobility, a sensation of warmth and swelling occur.
In addition, especially when the symptoms begin, a feeling of pressure can be observed around the nail. All of these symptoms are signs of inflammation and suggest a bacterial infection, especially if pus appears. The pain can be so pronounced that the wearing of footwear is restricted and the toe can only be moved slightly.

Also read the article on the topic: Inflammation in the big toe


At the onset of the symptoms, there is an increased feeling of pressure in the toe. This is due to the initial defense reaction and can be accompanied by reddening and slight swelling.
As the inflammation progresses and bacteria enter, the pain increases and can be enormous. In rare cases, incapacity for work can occur because wearing shoes and even socks is uncomfortable. At this point at the latest, a doctor should be consulted and surgical therapy should be considered.

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You might also be interested in this topic: Surgery for a nail bed inflammation


Redness is one of the five classic signs of inflammation and usually occurs at a very early stage of the inflammation.
Together with pain (Dolor), swelling (tumor), warmth (Calor) and functional impairment (FUNCTION LAESA), the reddening (Rubor) represents a definite inflammation. The cause of the reddening is the increased blood flow to the inflamed area, which is caused by the immune system and allows the immune cells to float. Redness can be a warning sign of inflammation and can be used as an early indicator of infection.

Find out more about the topic: Swollen toe

Pus bladder

A pus bladder, often also called a pus bump, is a pus-filled bladder that occurs as part of inflammation and usually projects onto the center of a reddened, painful swelling.
The inflammation often extends much further into the depths of the tissue, which is why the pus is the tip of the iceberg. Often the bladder ruptures, causing pus to leak out. Overall, a pus indicates an already advanced inflammation and should be clarified by a doctor and possibly opened surgically.


A precise diagnosis in the context of purulent inflamed toes is therefore important, as optimal therapy should also relate to the respective cause.
Especially with ingrown toenails, a change in certain behavioral measures can already lead to the healing of the inflammation. Inflammation of the nail bed can be differentiated from ingrown toenails both externally and in the type of inflammation. If you are unsure, you should consult a podiatrist or a doctor. They will take a close look at the toe and ask some questions about the inflammation.


The specific treatment depends on the cause of the pus and therefore can vary widely.
In any case, adequate protection of the affected foot, the application of ointments and warm foot baths are indicated. In addition, tight shoes should be avoided. Regular ventilation and cleaning are also important for the fastest possible recovery.
In the case of very advanced and long-lasting symptoms in the context of an inflammation of the nail bed or infected wounds, antibiotic therapy may be necessary and should be clarified by a doctor.

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In the case of ingrown toenails, in addition to the treatments mentioned, avoiding risk factors such as tight footwear or incorrect nail cutting can also be considered. Further conservative therapies are the placement of cotton rolls between the nail and the skin, as well as the application of a suitable nail correction brace. The latter procedures are performed by a podiatrist and should be discussed with him.
As a last resort, a surgical intervention, for example in the form of an Emmert plastic, can be used in the event of failure of the previously mentioned strategies. A wedge-shaped removal of the nail and the adjacent nail fold is carried out on the affected side of the nail in order to narrow the toenail.


In addition to adequate protection and the wearing of suitable footwear, there are also some ointments to shorten the course and alleviate the symptoms.
For this purpose, wound ointments, pull ointments or antiseptic (disinfecting) ointments such as iodine ointment or betaisodona can be used. These can kill bacteria and prevent them from entering or growing. Pull ointments soften the inflamed tissue, which makes it easier for the pus to escape. This will relieve the pressure and reduce the pain. Other ointments can also have cooling and pain relieving functions.

Read more on the topic: Pull ointment

Which home remedies can help?

There are numerous home remedies that can be used to treat an inflamed toe.
In addition to the already mentioned ointments, such as wound ointment, pull ointment or antiseptic iodine ointment, warm foot baths can be used. In addition, other home remedies such as chamomile, tea tree oil or calendula are usually added to the water. Warm foot baths soften the inflamed tissue, which allows pus to escape and reduce pain.
Other possible home remedies are cooling quark or arnica compresses, which have a pain-relieving effect and can curb the inflammation.
Homeopathic remedies such as Hepar sulfuris, Silicea or Belladonna can also be helpful and should be discussed with a homeopath.

Further information on this:

  • Arnica ointment
  • Betaisodona solution for use as a foot bath

Which doctor treats this?

If the symptoms get increasingly worse or do not improve after sufficient rest and the application of ointments, the first point of contact can be the family doctor or a podiatrist.
A podiatrist is a non-medical alternative practitioner who specializes in feet and carries out all non-invasive measures independently. In most cases, these will initiate appropriate treatment and alleviate the symptoms. If the inflammation is very advanced or if it is chronic, a referral to a dermatologist or surgeon can be made.


The duration of a purulent inflammation of the toe is very variable and can vary from a few days to several months up to a chronic course.
Smaller inflammations of the nail bed, which usually heal by themselves, are typical for a short period of time. In the case of severe inflammation of the nail bed, which already affects most of the tissue surrounding the nail, the duration is significantly longer and can include several weeks. Ingrown toenails are often a chronic problem. The reason is that the cause is usually a misconduct or an anatomical condition. Therefore, long-term treatment strategies should also be pursued for ingrown toenails.

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