An ingrown toenail is one of the most common toenail problems. It happens when the toenail curves downward and grows into the surrounding skin and it most often affects the big toe. If left untreated, irritation can give way to pain and, eventually, infection. The best way to prevent complications is to treat ingrown toenails promptly.
Soak in Warm Water
Make yourself a foot bath with warm water and gentle, unscented soap. Some people choose to add Epsom salts for more relief. Soaking your foot in warm water for 15 to 20 minutes three to four times a day can help keep the area clean, warding off infection. It will also soften the skin and nails, making it easier to lift the toenail out and away.
Clean with Alcohol
You’ll want to guide the toenail away from the skin, but before you do that, apply alcohol to the affected area. The alcohol will get rid of any bacteria that may have gotten under the toenail and help to prevent infection.
Cotton or Floss Under the Nail
Experts recommend lifting the toenail away from the affected area and guiding it so that it starts to grow the right way. Soak your feet until the nail is soft. Then, take a small piece of cotton or plain dental floss and roll it in your fingers. Gently push back the skin and lift the toenail away from the affected area. Place the cotton or floss under the nail. This may feel uncomfortable, but it helps guide that corner of the nail above the skin as it grows. Change the cotton or floss each day until the nail no longer digs into the skin when you remove the cotton.
Soak in Apple Cider Vinegar
Apple cider vinegar is believed to have antibacterial, antiseptic, and anti-inflammatory properties, so it may help reduce swelling and stave off infection. Prepare a foot bath as you normally would and add ¼ cup of apple cider vinegar. For best results, soak the affected foot for 20 minutes, three times a day.
Antibiotic ointment can help prevent infection in the affected area and is usually available over-the-counter at any pharmacy. Apply the ointment to clean, dry skin and use a band-aid or bandage to protect the area and to keep the cream in place as long as possible.
Avoid Wearing Tight Shoes
When you have an ingrown toenail, avoid tight shoes, shoes with a pointed toe, or shoes that put pressure on the front of your foot, including high heels. Not only can this footwear exacerbate the problem, but it could also be the cause. At home, wear loose-fitting slippers or just socks. If it is warm enough, go barefoot at home and wear sandals outside until your ingrown toenail heals.
Take a Pain Reliever
If you plan to soak the foot and lift the toenail away from the affected area, you may want to take a pain reliever first. Depending on how swollen the area is, this process can be very uncomfortable or painful.
Take an Oral Antibiotic
If the area is swollen and painful, you may need to visit a doctor. If you already have an infection, your doctor will prescribe an oral antibiotic. Take the medication exactly as your doctor instructs and finish the whole course. Severe issues may require inspection by a podiatrist, who will examine the toe and suggest treatment. Sometimes, this involves partial or complete removal of the toenail.
Partial Toenail Removal
If the podiatrist thinks it is necessary, he may recommend removing a section of the toenail from the nail bed, called toenail avulsion. The result is a narrower toenail. The doctor will apply a local anesthetic to numb the area while the patient remains awake. After the procedure, patients are usually instructed to wear open-toe shoes or very loose footwear for a few days.
Complete Toenail Removal
Recurring ingrown toenails or a condition that increases the risk of ingrown toenails, such as diabetes or kidney or thyroid problems, may require that the toenail be completely removed. As with partial removal, the doctor uses a local anesthetic and kills the cells at the nailbed to prevent regrowth. Prevent the need for ingrown toenail treatments by taking good care of your feet. Avoid clipping your nails too short and do not clip them at an angle. Make sure your footwear is not too tight and wash your feet every day.