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How to Treat Ingrown Toenails

An ingrown toenail is a common condition accounting for 20% of all foot problems in primary care. It can develop in any nails but often affects the big toenails. If you have such a condition, then you’re probably experiencing discomfort, especially when you move around. 

Fortunately, ingrown toenails can easily be avoided and, if caught early, managed at home to prevent further pain and discomfort. But if it has already become infected, it’s time to seek the help of your trusted podiatrist.

Seeking medical care for a seemingly harmless ingrown toenail may seem excessive. But if left untreated, an infection might develop in the affected nail, which can cause extreme pain and mobility problems. Additionally, an infection can cause serious complications, especially if you have an underlying medical condition, such as diabetes or poor blood circulation.

What causes an ingrown toenail?

An ingrown toenail is a foot condition that happens when the corner of the nail grows into the skin of the toenail. This condition primarily occurs when you trim your nails improperly (e.g., cutting them too short, cutting in a rounded shape, or ripping the nail). 

Improper trimming can cause the nail to be irregularly shaped or have tapered edges, causing it to curve and grow into the skin. Other causes of ingrown in the toenail include the following:

  • Improper footwear - shoes that are too tight or small puts pressure on the sides of the skin, causing the toenail to grow in.
  • Toe trauma and injury, such as stubbing or banging the toe
  • Genetic predisposition - some people may be born with irregularly shaped feet or nail beds. These congenital disabilities can cause the tissues in the nail border to grow around the nail.
  • Athletic activities, such as football, soccer, and ballet. These can damage or injure the toenail, thus causing ingrown.
  • Improper grooming and foot care.

What does an ingrown toenail feel like?

In its early stages, an ingrown toenail can feel tender and slightly sore when touched. You can also observe some swelling around the edges of the nail. As the nail grows and curls down onto the skin, pain and discomfort become more evident, and you may also see some fluid build-up in the toe.

An infection will soon follow and cause more pain, especially when you move. Some symptoms of an infected ingrown include:

  • Swelling and redness in the area
  • Yellow liquid or pus discharge
  • Bleeding
  • Severe pain

How to care for an ingrown toenail at home?

It’s important to act quickly and treat an ingrown in its early stages to prevent infection and further discomfort. Here are some safe and effective home care remedies to treat your foot condition:

  • Soak the foot in warm water (with or without Epsom salt) 3 to 4 times a day, preferably for 20 minutes. 
  • After soaking the feet, keep them dry for the rest of the day. 
  • You can relieve pressure by gently lifting the nail's edge and then placing dry cotton underneath. You can change it every day to avoid infecting the area. 
  • Wear sandals or comfortable shoes to avoid putting too much pressure on the affected toenail.
  • Take painkillers like ibuprofen to relieve discomfort. You can also apply topical antibiotics (Neosporin) on the ingrown toenail to avoid infection.

Do these home remedies for at least a week until the ingrown toenail improves. However, you should be careful not to go beyond these home care procedures to avoid further damaging the injured nail. Here are some answers to questions you might have about your ingrown toenail:

Can an ingrown toenail cure itself?

Sometimes, minor ingrown toenails can heal on their own if the affected nail grows above the skin edge. 

Can you remove an ingrown toenail yourself?

Podiatrists caution patients not to remove an ingrown toenail themselves as this will only increase their risk of getting infected. If you pull or “dig” out the ingrown nail, there’s a huge chance that you might accidentally nip the skin, creating an opening for bacteria and fungi to enter.

Additionally, your nail grooming tools are not clean and sterile; they may harbor dust, dirt, or microorganisms that can cause infection to your injured toenail.

Should you cut an ingrown toenail?

If you want to avoid a nasty infection, then NO. You should NOT cut an ingrown toenail yourself.

When to seek medical help?

If your ingrown does not respond to home treatments or if it shows signs of infection, you should immediately seek professional help. Your podiatrist will evaluate your condition and decide what kind of surgical treatment to perform.

Partial nail avulsion

A partial nail avulsion involves removing only the ingrown part of the toenail一the portion that’s digging into the skin of the nail bed. Your doctor will administer a local anesthetic to the toe and then use a scissor or other surgical instrument to trim the ingrown.

For infected toenails, your podiatrist may need to drain the pus and remove overgrown tissues that have developed. They may also need to cauterize or perform a chemical matrixectomy on the exposed nail base to neutralize the area and destroy the remaining nail-growing cells.

Complete nail avulsion

If your ingrown has been a recurrent problem or affects both sides of the nails, then your doctor may recommend a complete nail avulsion. This involves removing the entire toenail to facilitate the normal growth of a new nail for approximately 12 months.

A complete nail avulsion may also be performed with chemical matrixectomy to hinder the growth of a new nail, thus preventing an ingrown toenail forever. This will all depend on what your doctor will recommend based on your condition.

oot and ankle surgery near me

Where to find a podiatrist that performs foot and ankle surgery near me?

An ingrown toenail may seem like a harmless little problem, but it can actually grow into a complicated medical condition if left untreated. So if you have been suffering from such, then it’s time to call in the cavalry.

Florida Foot and Ankle Associates is a leading medical facility in Miami that provides the highest quality treatments and services for foot and ankle conditions. Some of the practices we specialize in include:

And more!

Call us now at 786-662-3893 to speak with our podiatrist about your condition. 

We also have locations throughout South Florida, our specialists serving the Greater Miami Area, including Miami-Dade (Miami, Kendall, Miami Beach, Doral, Hialeah, Coral Gables), Broward County (Hollywood, Pembroke Pines), and Palm Beach County (Boca Raton). 

Click here to find the nearest one near you!

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.

8200 NW 27th St
Suite 108
Doral, FL 33122
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