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Ingrown Toenail Treatment: Essential Tips to Avoid Painful Complications

Ingrown toenails can be a painful and frustrating condition to deal with. If left untreated, they can lead to severe pain, infection, and other complications. Fortunately, there are various ingrown toenail treatments available that can help you find relief and prevent further issues. This article will provide you with essential tips and information on how to treat ingrown toenails, recognize symptoms, and avoid painful complications. By following these guidelines, you can ensure your toenails remain healthy and pain-free.

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Introduction to ingrown toenail treatment

Understanding the causes of ingrown toenails

Before diving into the various ingrown toenail treatments, it’s crucial to understand what causes ingrown toenails in the first place. Ingrown toenails occur when the edge of the nail grows into the surrounding skin, causing pain and inflammation. Several factors can contribute to the development of ingrown toenails.

One of the primary causes of ingrown toenails is improper nail trimming. Cutting your nails too short or not straight across can cause the nail edge to dig into the surrounding skin. Wearing shoes that are too tight or narrow in the toe area can also lead to ingrown toenails, as the pressure from the shoes pushes the nail into the skin. Injuries to the toe or nail, such as stubbing your toe, can cause the nail to grow irregularly, increasing the risk of an ingrown toenail. Finally, some individuals may be more susceptible to ingrown toenails due to their genetics or the natural shape of their nails.

Recognizing the symptoms of an infected ingrown toenail

An infected ingrown toenail can be extremely painful, and early recognition of the symptoms is crucial in preventing further complications. The initial signs of an ingrown toenail include pain, redness, and swelling around the affected nail. You may also notice that the skin surrounding the nail is tender.

If the ingrown toenail becomes infected, you may experience additional symptoms such as pus or discharge, increased swelling, and a throbbing sensation in the toe. The skin around the nail may also become warm to the touch, and you may develop a fever. If you experience any of these symptoms, seeking ingrown toenail treatments is essential to prevent the infection from spreading and causing more severe complications.

Home remedies for ingrown toenail relief

Several home remedies for ingrown toenail relief can help alleviate pain and discomfort. These methods can be particularly helpful in the early stages of an ingrown toenail before infection sets in.

First, soak your foot in warm water for 15-20 minutes, 3-4 times a day. This can help reduce swelling and soften the skin around the ingrown toenail, making lifting the nail edge out of the skin easier. You can also add Epsom salts to the water, which may help soothe the affected area and promote healing.

Another effective home remedy for ingrown toenail relief is applying over-the-counter pain relievers or anti-inflammatory creams to the affected area. This can help reduce pain, swelling, and inflammation. However, it’s important not to rely solely on these medications for ingrown toenail treatment, as they do not address the underlying issue of the nail growing into the skin.

Finally, wearing open-toed shoes or sandals can help relieve pressure on the affected toe, allowing the ingrown toenail to heal more effectively. Keeping the area clean and dry is also crucial, as this can help prevent infection and promote healing.

How to treat ingrown toenails: step-by-step guide


If you’re dealing with an ingrown toenail, treating it promptly to prevent infection and further complications is essential. Follow this step-by-step guide on how to treat ingrown toenails effectively:

  1. Soak your foot in warm water for 15-20 minutes, 3-4 times a day, to help soften the skin and reduce swelling.
  2. After soaking, gently dry your foot and apply an over-the-counter antibiotic ointment to the affected area.
  3. Carefully lift the edge of the ingrown toenail using a clean, sterilized tool like a nail file or dental floss. This can help encourage the nail to grow out and away from the skin.
  4. Place a small piece of cotton or dental floss under the lifted nail edge to keep it elevated and prevent it from growing back into the skin. Change the cotton or floss daily to maintain cleanliness.
  5. Apply a bandage or adhesive strip to the toe, keeping the nail elevated and protected.
  6. Continue to soak your foot and apply antibiotic ointment until the ingrown toenail has grown out and the pain and inflammation have subsided.

Tips for preventing ingrown toenail complications

To avoid painful complications and the need for more invasive ingrown toenail treatments, follow these tips for prevention:


  1. Trim your toenails straight across, avoiding cutting them too short or rounding the edges.
  2. Wear properly fitting shoes with a wide toe box to avoid excessive pressure on your toenails.
  3. Keep your feet clean and dry, as moisture can promote the growth of bacteria and fungi, increasing the risk of infection.
  4. Check your feet regularly for signs of ingrown toenails, such as redness, swelling, or pain around the nail.
  5. Consider seeing a podiatrist for regular nail maintenance and care if you have a history of ingrown toenails.

    When to consult an ingrown toenail doctor

    While many ingrown toenails can be treated at home, there are situations where it’s essential to consult an ingrown toenail doctor, such as a podiatrist. If your ingrown toenail is severely painful, infected, or showing no signs of improvement after several days of home treatment, it’s time to seek professional help.

    A podiatrist can provide more advanced ingrown toenail treatments, such as removing a portion of the nail or prescribing oral antibiotics for infection. In some cases, surgical intervention may be necessary to remove the entire nail or permanently alter the nail’s growth pattern.

    Dissolving ingrown toenails: alternative treatments

    In some cases, your healthcare provider may recommend alternative ingrown toenail treatments. One such method is using a chemical solution to dissolve the ingrown portion of the nail. This treatment is typically reserved for severe or recurring ingrown toenails that have not responded to more conservative treatments.

    During this procedure, a doctor will apply a chemical solution, such as phenol or sodium hydroxide, to the ingrown portion of the nail. This causes the nail tissue to soften and dissolve, allowing for easy removal of the affected nail. The surrounding skin is protected with a barrier cream, usually performed under local anesthesia.

    How to heal an ingrown toenail: long-term care

    After receiving ingrown toenail treatment, you must continue taking care of your feet to prevent recurrence and promote healing. Keep the affected toe clean and dry, and avoid tight shoes that can cause pressure on the nail. Continue to trim your nails straight across and avoid cutting them too short.

    If you have a history of ingrown toenails, consider seeing a podiatrist for regular foot care and nail maintenance.  The AAOS explains how this can help ensure your toenails remain healthy and free of complications.

    Maintaining healthy toenails and avoiding ingrown toenail pain

    Ingrown toenails can be a painful and frustrating condition, but with proper care and treatment, you can find relief and prevent further complications. By understanding the causes of ingrown toenails, recognizing the symptoms, and following the appropriate ingrown toenail treatments, you can maintain healthy toenails and avoid ingrown toenail pain. Don’t hesitate to seek professional help if your ingrown toenail becomes infected or does not improve with at-home care.

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