Medically Reviewed on 2/26/2021
How do you fix an ingrown toenail?
Ingrown toenails happen when toenails grow into or under the surrounding skin. You can sometimes treat an ingrown toenail at home with pain medication and home remedies, but if that doesn’t help you may need a minor surgery.
Ingrown toenails are common, but their solutions and healing times can vary. Most cases can be treated at home, but you should watch carefully for signs of infection. People with diabetes or circulatory issues should seek medical attention for an ingrown toenail.
What is an ingrown toenail?
Ingrown toenails happen when your nail grows into or under the surrounding skin. This results in a tender, painful toenail prone to infection.
Main symptoms of an ingrown toenail
Symptoms of an ingrown toenail are:
- Pain in the affected toe
- Tenderness in the skin surrounding the nail
- Redness, warmth, and slight swelling around the nail
- Drainage and odor
Main causes of an ingrown toenail
Ingrown toenails usually happen when the nail isn’t groomed properly — like if you trim your toenails too short or at an angle, or dry skin surrounding your nail grows over the edge for the nail. They are also caused by a small injury to the toe, or your nail may be too large genetically.
Wearing tight shoes or socks can also increase your chances of developing this condition. Tight footwear can push your toes in an unnatural shape, forcing the corner of the nail into the skin. Any toenail can become ingrown, but the big toe is the most common digit.
Cutting your toenails too short or too curved at the sides can cause ingrown toenails. This allows room for the toenail to grow inward. Cutting the toenail straight across is the easiest way to prevent this condition.
Who can get an ingrown toenail?
Teenagers and people with nail deformities are most likely to develop ingrown toenails. Anyone can get an ingrown toenail, though, whether from tight shoes or incorrect toenail grooming.
Diagnosing an ingrown toenail
You can sometimes diagnose an ingrown toenail yourself, especially if you have had it before. A doctor will likely be able to diagnose the condition by inspecting the toe and applying pressure to the outside of the nail bed.
Treatments for ingrown toenails
You can sometimes treat an ingrown toenail at home. Swelling, excessive pain, discharge, and an odor are signs of infection. If you think your toenail may be infected, talk to your doctor.
If your ingrown toenail is infected, your doctor may prescribe you antibiotics to fight the infection. This could be in the form of a topical antibiotic cream or pill. Also, taking over-the-counter pain relievers can treat your pain.
If an ingrown toenail isn’t infected, you may be able to treat it at home by following these steps:
- Soak your feet in warm water with epsom salts for 20 to 30 minutes 3 to4 times per day.
- Keep your feet dry afterward.
- Wear open-toed or loose-fitting shoes during treatment to promote healing.
- If there is no improvement in 2 to 3 days, call your doctor.
Prevent ingrown toenails in the future with these steps:
- Always trim your toenails straight across with clippers.
- Don’t cut them too short.
- Avoid wearing tight-fitting shoes, socks, or hosiery.
- Never rip off loose pieces of your toenail.
Severe or repetitive ingrown toenails may require surgery. This is a minor procedure, usually done while the patient is awake. The doctor will inject an anesthesia into the affected toe. Then they will cut off the portion of the nail that’s growing into your skin.
In some cases, the doctor applies a substance to the exposed nail bed that prevents the nail from growing back on that side (ablation). It can take 2 to 4 months for your nail to grow back after surgery.
Risks of ingrown toenails
People with diabetes can suffer from nerve damage to the feet. If you have diabetes, immediately seek medical care upon discovering ingrown toenails or a foot injury.
Anyone who has a vascular or circulatory disorder should also speak to their doctor about an ingrown toenail, because it can lead to complications if left untreated.
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Medically Reviewed on 2/26/2021
American College of Foot and Ankle Surgeons Foot Health Facts: “Ingrown Toenail.”
American Family Physician Journal: “Ingrown Toenail Management.”
American Podiatric Medical Association: “Ingrown Toenails.”
OrthoInfo: “Ingrown Toenail.”