How Do You Treat an Ingrown Toenail?

An ingrown toenail is often a mild problem—but that doesn’t mean you don’t want one gone when you have it!

Fortunately, most ingrown toenail cases can be treated rather effectively at home. When one arises in your life every great once in a while, we have an easy treatment plan for you to try. It doesn’t require any hard-to-find items; just a bit of diligence and time commitment.

That said, an ingrown toenail should not always be considered an easy condition to remedy. There are times when ingrown toenail treatment should be left to us, and we will be discussing these situations as well.

How to Treat an Ingrown Toenail at Home

If your ingrown toenail appears to be a standard, mild case and none of the warning factors we’ll describe later apply to you, then attempting to treat your ingrown toenail at home should be perfectly reasonable.

You will need:

  • A small basin you can place your foot in. (Your bathtub can be used as an option, if necessary, but a small basin will be easier to work with.)
  • A supply of clean cotton or plain dental floss.
  • Antibiotic ointment (e.g. Neosporin).
  • A supply of adhesive bandages.

First, fill your basin or tub with warm water and soak your affected foot for 15-20 minutes. Feel free to add some Epsom salt, if you wish. That and other additives are optional, but do not use anything that causes you pain or irritation! The soak is intended to provide some comfort as well as soften the nail.

After you have finished soaking, gently dry your foot. Then, slide a small piece of cotton or dental floss beneath the ingrown section of the nail. This will help to gently guide the ingrown nail away from the skin.

Once you have the cotton or dental floss in place, apply some antibiotic ointment to your toe and protect it with an adhesive bandage.

Soak your foot 3-4 times per day, repeating the same full process. Each time you do, fully remove the old cotton or dental floss and replace it with a new piece and use a new adhesive bandage as well.

While taking care of your ingrown toenail, try to keep your foot bare as much as you reasonably can. Wearing open-toed shoes or sandals is a good alternative; barring that, try to stick to footwear that gives your toes plenty of room.

When Should an Ingrown Toenail Be Seen by a Professional?

If you have a mild ingrown toenail that easily clears up with home treatment, you couldn’t ask for much better than that! But there are times when an ingrown toenail is not mild, or there are other factors at play that make home care too risky to recommend.

Please give us a call if any of the following apply to you:

  • Your ingrown toenail does not improve after a couple of days. There may be something a bit more complex going on that we can treat with more professional tools.
  • Your ingrown toenail is too painful to treat on your own. Severe pain is sign of a complication (such as infection), and you also don’t deserve to be causing so much pain for yourself! We have the means to treat your toenail much more comfortably.
  • Your ingrown toenail is showing signs of infection. In addition to severe pain, signs of infection may include red streaks spreading from the site of the nail, discharge of pus around or below the nail, and fever. Not all signs need to be present to indicate an infection, and we recommend calling us promptly if you suspect you may have one.
  • You have diabetes. Diabetes, as well as any other condition that interferes with circulation to your feet, can make any kind of injury to your feet potentially serious. These conditions can slow healing times and increase the rate of infection.
  • Your ingrown toenail keeps coming back, over and over. If ingrown toenails are a regular affliction for you, it’s a likely sign that something is not right. We can help you determine whether factors like your footwear, toenail trimming, or genetics are causing these repeat offenses.

How are Ingrown Toenails Treated at the Podiatrist?

If your ingrown toenail needs more advanced treatment than can be provided at home, we will first conduct a thorough exam to determine the best course of action. This might include:

  • Lifting and splinting the nail. This tends to be a treatment for milder cases in which gently lifting the nail yourself proved unsuccessful or not possible. We will gently lift the edge of the nail with our tools and apply a separating splint beneath it to aid healing.
  • Removal of the nail. In more severe cases, we may trim or cut away part of the nail. In some cases, the full nail may need to be removed. We will administer a local anesthetic to the toe if needed, so you will not feel any of this. The nail will grow back.
  • Matrixectomy. In cases where you are getting repeat ingrown toenails and nothing seems to be correcting the problem, we may recommend full removal of the nail along with a treatment to the underlying nailbed. This will prevent the nail from growing back, providing a permanent solution.

All of these procedures can be performed in-office, with a short recovery time for removals. Specific details may vary from patient to patient, and we will gladly provide all the details for a potential procedure as they would apply to you.

Don’t Wait on Ingrown Toenail Concerns

Even if many ingrown toenails are not that big a deal, do not take that to mean it’s ever silly to reach out with any concerns you may have about them. It is much better to ensure nothing complex is happening than to have a problem worsen before you know it!

Schedule an appointment with Foot & Ankle Clinics of Arizona by calling (480) 917-2300. If you prefer to reach us electronically, fill out our online contact form at any time and a member of our staff will respond during standard office hours.

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