Ingrown toenails are painful, and they can be tricky to treat because they can easily become infected and are often a recurring problem.
If your ingrown toenail has become infected, you shouldn’t attempt to treat it yourself. “The first thing is, if they’re infected, they need to be seen by a podiatrist,” says Alan K. Mauser, DPM, a podiatrist in Louisville, Ky.
If the ingrown toenail is not infected, you can try some at-home remedies to keep the pain at bay and prevent the ingrown toenail from coming back. Here are some ideas:
- Try a foot soak. Allow your sore toe to soak in a warm salt water bath for 15 minutes a couple of times every day.
- This soak can help relieve pain and swelling in an ingrown toenail. Dry your foot completely after each soak.
- Keep your foot dry except when soaking.
- Take an over-the-counter pain-relieving medication, like acetaminophen or ibuprofen.
- Gently pull the skin away from the nail using a small nail file or another blunt device that won’t cut or hurt the toe.
- Stuff tiny pieces of clean, moist cotton between the ingrown toenail and the skin to help separate them and provide a little cushioning to the skin.
- You can soak the cotton in a bit of water or an antiseptic cleanser first.
- Rub your toe with antibiotic ointment to help reduce your chance of developing an infection.
- Cover the sore toe with a Band-Aid or other bandage to offer a little extra padding and protection.
- Choose shoes that are easy on your toes. Shoes made of soft fabrics with a wide toe are a good choice — try wearing sandals if you can.
- Avoid shoes that pinch the toes or place pressure on the ingrown toenail.
- Inspect your toe carefully for signs of infection. Check every day for signs and symptoms like redness, increased pain, swelling, and drainage of pus.
- See a podiatrist if you see signs of infection, or if your ingrown toenail keeps coming back.
- Ingrown toenails are often a recurring problem. “If it’s a problem, if it’s recurrent, you should see a podiatrist who can fix the problem,” says Mauser. “It’s a small surgical procedure where you permanently remove the ingrown corner of the nail.
Prevention is often your best method for controlling the pain of ingrown toenails. There are numerous ways to prevent toenails from curving over and digging into the skin of your toe. Buying properly fitting footwear (it shouldn’t squeeze the toes) and cutting your toenails correctly (not too short and in a straight line across), are two easiest methods. “Once you start digging down the sides you’re probably going to get an infection,” says Mauser.
People with diabetes should carefully examine their feet regularly, and should always see a doctor about an ingrown toenail.
If you spot an ingrown toenail, act fast to prevent an infection. Use these tips to treat an ingrown toenail, and head to a podiatrist at the first sign of infection.