Ingrown toenails are pretty common, but that doesn’t mean they should be ignored. An ingrown toenail occurs when the corner of your toenail begins to grow into the soft, tender tissue surrounding the nail bed. Most ingrown toenails affect the big toe, although any toe can be affected. Ingrown nails are often caused by wearing shoes that are too tight or pointy in the toe area, but they can also be more common among people with certain foot shapes and people whose nails are especially thick.
While an ingrown toenail might seem like a minor (although painful) medical problem, without prompt care, it can quickly become infected. What starts as an infection around the nail bed can spread to the rest of the toe and even into your foot, especially if your immune system is already stressed or if you have circulation problems. If you catch an ingrown toenail early, it’s usually OK to try at-home remedies to “fix” it and relieve your painful symptoms. Here are a few treatments that might help:
Trim the nail
If you’re able to gently lift the ingrown portion of the nail, try using a sterile nail clipper to trim away the part that’s pressing into the skin. Be careful not to cut the skin around the nail to avoid causing an infection.
Change your shoes
Since ingrown toenails are often caused by tight-fitting shoes, try switching to shoes that offer plenty of room in the toe area. When your toes have ample space, the nail won’t be pressed into the side of your toe, which means it will be easier for it to grow out normally.
Soak your foot
Soaking the affected foot can help relieve painful inflammation, and it may also help prevent infection. Warm, soapy water is best; soak several times a day for best results. You might also add a bit of apple cider vinegar for its potential to fight off bad germs.
Use gauze or dental floss
If you’re able to lift the edge of the nail, you can try putting a bit of dental floss or sterile gauze under the nail to prevent it from growing deeper into the skin. Keep a very close watch on the gauze or floss to make sure it doesn’t act as a harbor for germs.
Take an over-the-counter pain medicine
Non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) like ibuprofen can help relieve discomfort and, in some cases, swelling as well.
Use antibiotic cream
Apply an over-the-counter antibiotic cream to the skin around your toe to provide some germ-killing power that may help reduce your risk of infection.
Try a toe guard
Toe guards are tiny, cushioned covers that slip over the toe and help protect the toenail area. Some guards come with a special cream to relieve inflammation and soften the nail so it’s easier to trim.
Alter your nail-trimming habits
This tip might not help once you have an ingrown nail, but it might prevent future ingrown nails. Lots of people trim their nails (fingers and toes) into gentle curves. That’s fine for your fingers, but your toes need to be trimmed straight across to encourage them to grow straight out instead of down into the edge of the nail bed.
When to see a doctor
At-home treatments might seem like the simpler option than visiting Dr. Frazier, but because ingrown toenails can cause very serious infections, you should still call the office if your toe doesn’t improve or if you notice your symptoms becoming worse. If the toe is very puffy, if you notice redness spreading up your toe, or if there’s a discharge of pus or blood near the nail, you need to call the office immediately.
Ingrown toenails are painful, and like any injury, they need immediate attention to prevent them from getting worse. As a top Cypress podiatry clinic, The Frazier Foot and Ankle Clinic offers state-of-the-art care to treat ingrown toenails and to prevent them from recurring. To get relief from your painful ingrown toenail symptoms and to make sure your feet stay as healthy as possible, book an appointment online today.