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How to Get Rid of An Ingrown Toenail

A painful, reddish, and swollen toenail can be the result of cutting your toenail too short or sustaining an injury from a ball game. The injured toenail can become hard and tender to the touch as the nail embeds and grows into the skin.

Over time, this initially harmless foot condition can become a full-on infection that can spread in the body. This type of foot condition is known as ingrown or onychocryptosis, or unguis incarnates.

Here at Florida Foot & Ankle, our Florida foot specialists and podiatrist are experienced in diagnosing and treating ingrown toenails. However, some cases can be treated at home using simple remedies and non-surgical options.

What is an ingrown toenail?

An ingrown toenail is a common foot problem wherein the sides of the toenail abnormally grow and dig into the skin. Over time, it will soon pierce the skin and soft tissues underneath, causing severe pain and infection. 

Ingrown toenails can happen to any of the toenails but more so to the hallux or big toe. An ingrown toenail typically has three stages of symptoms, and they are as follows:

  • Stage 1 - the toe is inflamed, hard, red, and tender to the touch.
  • Stage 2 - infection will set in, causing severe redness, inflammation and secretions (pus) to come out.
  • Stage 3 - formation of granulation tissue

Toenails can become ingrown when you taper the nail corners too short, wear ill-fitting shoes, have a toenail injury, or have an underlying medical condition. Other factors that can increase your risk of developing an ingrown include bad foot hygiene, active participation in foot-related activities, and disorders like diabetes.

What are home treatment options for ingrown toenails?

Some cases of ingrown toenails may be managed and treated at home. However, if the ingrown toenail starts to become infected and secrete pus, then that’s the time that you should visit your podiatrist.

Prevent infection and other complications as early as possible by doing some of these evidence-based home remedies.

Soaking the feet

One of the easiest yet effective ways to manage pain and swelling is to soak the affected foot in one of the liquid mixtures outlined below. These mixtures can help soften the curved nail and the skin around it, thus reducing pressure, pain, and swelling. 

You can combine a basin of warm water with soap, apple cider vinegar, or Epsom salt to prevent infection and relieve pain and inflammation. Here’s how you can prepare each one:

  • Warm soapy water - prepare a tub of warm water and mix a small amount of soap (e.g., Castile).
  • Apple cider vinegar - prepare a tub of warm water, then add ¼ cup of apple cider vinegar to it. 
  • Epsom salt - prepare a tub of warm water, then mix two tablespoons of Epsom salt. 
  • Hydrogen peroxide - prepare a tub of warm water, then add hydrogen peroxide solution. The ratio is one part hydrogen peroxide for every three parts of water.

You can perform foot soaking 2 to 3 times daily for at least 20 minutes. Make sure to dry the feet thoroughly after each soak. 

Comfortable footwear

Wear socks and shoes that do not cramp your toes. Choose those that fit well but have lots of room for your toes to avoid putting too much pressure on your injured toe. Consider wearing comfortable, open-toed sandals while you wait for your ingrown to get better.

Use a toe protector

Another way to help manage your painful symptoms is by using different toe devices, such as a toe protector and toe brace. A toe protector is a soft, padded tube that covers the individual toes to cushion the ingrown toenails. Some may have a medicated jelly mixed inside the tube to provide relief and comfort and protect the toe from other injuries, such as blisters and corns.

Oral and topical medications

An ingrown toenail can cause significant discomfort, especially when moving or during an activity. So if the pain becomes unbearable, then you can always take over-the-counter medications to reduce the symptoms. This includes the following:

  • Acetaminophen 
  • Ibuprofen
  • Paracetamol
  • NSAIDs

There are also OTC topical pain relievers that you can apply to the injured toe to provide comfort and promote healing. Some examples of ointments and creams include mupirocin, bacitracin, and neomycin. 

Additionally, these ointments can aid in decreasing your risk for infection, as well as augment the healing of the injured soft tissues.

If the ingrown toenail starts manifesting the symptoms of infection, then your doctor may prescribe antibiotic medications and ointment. You should get medical help if the ingrown is infected or if the above-mentioned home remedies fail to improve your condition after 3 to 4 days.

When to visit a podiatrist?

An ingrown toenail that does not get better with home remedies and other non-surgical options should be seen by a foot specialist. You should also skip the home remedies and go straight to a doctor if you notice signs of infection, such as:

  • Fluid build-up in the affected nail
  • Foul smell
  • Oozing yellow discharge or pus
  • Thick, hard, and cracked yellowing nails
  • Swelling, hardening, redness, and throbbing
  • Pressure and severe pain when touched

Furthermore, patients with an underlying medical disorder, such as diabetes and circulation problems, should not underestimate an ingrown toenail. Once detected, it’s best to seek the help of the best podiatrist right away.

Your podiatrist will inspect the ingrown toenail first to see what kind of treatment to utilize. They may perform a partial or complete surgical removal of the infected nail, skin, and adjacent soft tissues. 

After the procedure, you will feel mild pain and discomfort, but also immediate relief since the ingrown is now gone. Your doctor will instruct you about proper aftercare and prescribe the right medications to augment healing.

foot and ankle surgery

Visit the best foot and ankle doctors in the Miami area to get the proper treatment you need

If you are currently enduring such a condition, then the best option is to visit one of the best podiatrists at Florida Foot & Ankle Associates.

If you need foot and ankle surgery, Florida Foot and Ankle Associates is the right place for you. We have locations throughout South Florida, with our specialists serving the Greater Miami Area, including Miami-Dade (Miami, Kendall, Miami Beach, Hialeah, Coral Gables), Broward County (Hollywood, Pembroke Pines), and Palm Beach County (Boca Raton). Find your doctor here!

Our board-certified foot doctors can properly diagnose, manage, and treat various foot conditions一from simple ingrown to traumatic foot injuries. Our facility also specializes in other practice areas, such as:

Contact us now to learn more about ingrown toenails and other foot conditions.

The material contained on this site is for informational purposes only and DOES NOT CONSTITUTE THE PROVIDING OF MEDICAL ADVICE, and is not intended to be a substitute for independent professional medical judgment, advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified healthcare providers with any questions or concerns you may have regarding your health.

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