Ingrown toenails can be a painful ordeal. Most of us have experienced the discomfort of an ingrown toenail at least once. While it may seem tempting to try and treat it at home, knowing when your ingrown toenail requires professional treatment is essential.
The board-certified team of experts at Washington Foot & Ankle Sports Medicine offers the following information about ingrown toenails, when to treat them at home, and when to schedule an appointment.
Ingrown toenail causes
Most ingrown toenails occur when the corner of the toenail grows into the surrounding skin. Factors that can contribute to ingrown toenails include:
- Improperly trimming your toenails (cutting them too short or rounding the edges)
- Trauma or injury to the toenail
- Genetic predisposition
- Nail conditions or fungal infections
Wearing improperly fitting shoes, including shoes that are too tight, can also cause ingrown toenails.
At-home treatment for ingrown toenails
If you notice an ingrown toenail in its early stages and there’s no sign of infection, try the following home remedies:
Soak the foot several times daily using warm water for 15-20 minutes. This can help soften the tissue around the nail, reducing pain and swelling.
Lift the nail
With sterilized tweezers, gently lift the ingrown edge of the nail away from the skin. You can put a cotton ball or dental floss under the nail to help prevent it from growing back into the skin.
Use antibacterial ointments
To reduce the risk of infection, after each soak, dry your foot thoroughly and apply a thin layer of antibiotic ointment, covering it with a bandage to keep the area clean.
Take over-the-counter pain relievers
Pain relievers, like ibuprofen or acetaminophen, can help reduce pain and inflammation. Make sure you're taking the recommended dosage and consult a physician if unsure.
Wear proper footwear
Choose shoes that give your toes ample space to move. Avoid tight-fitting shoes or high heels that can exacerbate the problem.
When your ingrown toenail needs professional attention
At-home toenail treatments relieve symptoms for mild cases, but you should schedule an appointment if there are signs of infection or you have recurring ingrown toenails. Call our office if you have any of the following symptoms:
- Pain becomes severe or unbearable
- The toe appears red, swollen, and feels warm to touch
- Pus or discharge is present
- Ingrown toenail recurs frequently
You should also be more careful with ingrown toenails if you have underlying medical conditions like diabetes.
Preventing ingrown toenails is the best cure
The best approach to ingrown toenails is to prevent them from happening in the first place. Some preventive measures include:
- Trim your toenails straight across, avoiding curved cuts
- Ensure your footwear isn't too tight or constricting
- Protect your feet from trauma or injury
While it’s possible to treat mild cases of ingrown toenails at home, it’s crucial to approach the issue with care and attention. If in doubt, it’s always best to consult with our Washington Foot & Ankle Sports Medicine team in Kirkland, Washington. Schedule an appointment online or call the office today.