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Will an Ingrown Toenail Eventually Heal on Its Own?

An ingrown toenail is a common condition where the corner or side of a toenail grows into the skin and flesh of the toe. 

Ingrown toenails seem like a minor inconvenience, and they will heal on their own for most people, but treatment may be necessary if you have diabetes or the area becomes infected. The medical team at Washington Foot & Ankle Sports Medicine in Kirkland, Washington, treats ingrown toenails with lasers, splints, or surgery.

What causes ingrown toenails?

Ingrown toenails may result from various factors, including trimming too short or not straight across the toe, wearing tight-fitting shoes, toe injuries, or having unusually curved toenails. Sometimes, ingrown toenails are hereditary.

At-home treatment for ingrown toenails

For mild cases where you experience minor discomfort and no signs of infection, an ingrown toenail can often improve with some home care. 

Soak the foot in warm, soapy water several times daily and place a small piece of cotton under the affected nail to help it grow above the skin's edge. Over-the-counter pain relievers and wearing open-toed shoes or sandals can help alleviate symptoms.

When ingrown toenails require professional treatment

If the ingrown toenail causes severe pain, shows signs of infection (such as redness, swelling, and pus), or if you have diabetes or another condition that causes poor blood flow to the feet, ingrown toenails are unlikely to heal independently. In these cases, professional medical treatment is necessary.

Ingrown toenail treatment

Professional treatment options for ingrown toenails include:

Lifting the nail

Your doctor might carefully lift the ingrowing nail edge for slightly ingrown nails and place a splint, cotton, or dental floss under it. This separates the nail from the overlying skin and helps the nail grow above the skin’s edge.

Partially removing the nail

 For more severe cases, especially if there's pain, redness, and pus, the doctor might trim or remove the ingrown portion of the nail.

Removing the nail and tissue

If you have a chronic problem with an ingrown toenail, your doctor might suggest removing a portion of the nail and the underlying tissue (nail bed) to prevent that part of your nail from growing back.

Antibiotics

In cases of infection, a course of antibiotics might be prescribed.

How to prevent ingrown toenails

Preventing ingrown toenails is crucial. Proper toenail trimming, wearing shoes that fit properly and provide enough room for your toes, and protecting your feet from trauma can reduce the risk of ingrown toenails.

 Also, people with diabetes or other conditions that cause poor blood flow to the feet should see our doctors regularly for routine foot exams.

If you are unsure whether your ingrown toenail needs professional treatment, it’s always best to consult a foot and ankle doctor at Washington Foot and Ankle Sports Medicine. Early professional intervention can often prevent a minor issue from turning into a major one.

Call the office or schedule an appointment online today.

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