How to soak an ingrown toenail

Ingrown toenails can be very painful and at times need the attention of a professional, but there are some things you can do on your own.

How to soak an ingrown toenail

Ingrown toenails are painful, and they can be tricky to treat because they can easily become infected and are often a recurring problem.

If your ingrown toenail has become infected, you shouldn't attempt to treat it yourself. "The first thing is, if they're infected, they need to be seen by a podiatrist," says Alan K. Mauser, DPM, a podiatrist in Louisville, Ky.

If the ingrown toenail is not infected, you can try some at-home remedies to keep the pain at bay and prevent the ingrown toenail from coming back. Here are some ideas:

  1. Try a foot soak. Allow your sore toe to soak in a warm salt water bath for 15 minutes a couple of times every day. This soak can help relieve pain and swelling in an ingrown toenail. Dry your foot completely after each soak.
  2. Keep your foot dry except when soaking.
  3. Take an over-the-counter pain-relieving medication, like acetaminophen or ibuprofen.
  4. Gently pull the skin away from the nail using a small nail file or other blunt device that won't cut or hurt the toe.
  5. Stuff tiny pieces of clean, moist cotton between the ingrown toenail and the skin to help separate them and provide a little cushioning to the skin. You can soak the cotton in a bit of water or an antiseptic cleanser first.
  6. Rub your toe with antibiotic ointment to help reduce your chance of developing an infection.
  7. Cover the sore toe with a Band-Aid or other bandage to offer a little extra padding and protection.
  8. Choose shoes that are easy on your toes. Shoes made of soft fabrics with a wide toe are a good choice — try wearing sandals if you can. Avoid shoes that pinch the toes or place pressure on the ingrown toenail.
  9. Inspect your toe carefully for signs of infection. Check every day for signs and symptoms like redness, increased pain, swelling, and drainage of pus.
  10. See a podiatrist if you see signs of infection, or if your ingrown toenail keeps coming back.

Ingrown toenails are often a recurring problem. "If it's a problem, if it's recurrent, you should see a podiatrist who can fix the problem," says Mauser. "It's a small surgical procedure where you permanently remove the ingrown corner of the nail.

Prevention is often your best method for controlling the pain of ingrown toenails. There are numerous ways to prevent toenails from curving over and digging into the skin of your toe. Buying properly fitting footwear (it shouldn't squeeze the toes) and cutting your toenails correctly (not too short and in a straight line across), are two easiest methods. "Once you start digging down the sides you're probably going to get an infection," says Mauser.

People with diabetes should carefully examine their feet regularly, and should always see a doctor about an ingrown toenail.

If you spot an ingrown toenail, act fast to prevent an infection. Use these tips to treat an ingrown toenail, and head to a podiatrist at the first sign of infection.

How to soak an ingrown toenail

An ingrown toenail, also known as onychocryptosis, is caused by the nail edge growing into the skin of the toe.

This is most often caused by trimming your nails in a rounded fashion, making it so once they grow back they do so into the skin of your toe.

Once the edge of the nail breaks through the skin, it normally produces inflammation, discomfort, and potentially an infection if it is not cared for properly.

Initially presented as a minor discomfort, an ingrown toenail may progress into an infection, become a bone disorder, and/or become a recurring problem.

If you trim your toenails too short around the sides of your toes, you are actually increasing the chances of an ingrown toenail developing.

Like many people, when you trim your toenails, you may taper the corners so that the nail curves with the shape of your toe. But, this technique may encourage your toenail to grow into the skin of your toe if done too severely. When this occurs, the sides of the nail will begin to curl down and dig into your skin.

3 Easy Ways to Control and Treat Ingrown Toenails Yourself

Also available at our location by a medical staff: Ingrown Toenail Treatment

  • Epsom Salt

One of the fastest and easiest ways to treat a case of an ingrown toenail is to soak the affected toe in an Epsom salt solution. The best way to do this is to put the toe in water while rubbing the Epsom salt into the affected area. The Epsom salt will absorb into the skin and help to soften and dissolve portions of the nail that has become embedded in the skin. Epsom salt is especially good at reducing pain and inflammation that is present in the area as well.

  • Soak Your Feet In Water

Soaking your feet in warm water helps to further soften the nail that is causing the pain to your toe. When the nail is softer, the pain lessens and the chances of removing the affected portions of the nail increase dramatically. After soaking your feet for about 20-30 minutes in warm water, try to remove the troublesome portion of the nail with tweezers.

  • Cotton and Dental Floss

Using cotton and dental floss is an easier way to remove portions of the nail that may have grown deep into the skin. After you have soaked your feet and used Epsom salt as well, place cotton around the affected area. Once this is done, you can use the dental floss to pull out portions of the nail by flossing it out. Be sure to be gentle and not to harsh on the skin, as this is a sensitive area.

If you believe your toe has become infected, if you have poor circulation, or if you have nerve damage, then it is recommended that you visit a foot care specialist before the infection spreads and potentially develops into something much worse.

How To Prevent Ingrown Toenail

Unless the problem is congenital, the best way to prevent ingrown toenails is to protect the feet from any severe trauma and to wear shoes and socks that fit properly and provide adequate room for the toes. Nails should be cut straight across with a clean, sharp nail trimmer.

When you trim the nails, be sure to do this without tapering or rounding the corners, as the nails will grow directly into the skin if this is done.

Trim the nails no shorter than the edge of the to, and try to keep your feet clean and dry whenever possible.

By following our guidelines, you can lower your risk of developing an ingrown toenail.

If you are experiencing any of the symptoms described above, do not hesitate to call our friendly and knowledgeable staff to schedule an ingrown toenail treatment at our Garland TX location.

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How to soak an ingrown toenail

Ingrown toenails can develop for several reasons. Some people get ingrown toenails because they wear tight shoes. Other people get ingrown toenails because their toes get injured, they cut their nails too short, or they cut their nails at an angle.

If you have an ingrown toenail, then you probably experience intense pain. Dr. Rambacher has years of experience treating ingrown toenails and similar conditions, so he can help treat the condition and teach you how to avoid future ingrown toenails.

In our experience, the following four treatment options are very effective for ingrown toenails.

1. Use an antibiotic to reduce swelling and pain

The swelling and pain that you experience with an ingrown toenail often come from bacteria that gets trapped between the nail and your skin.

Dr. Rambacher recommends using a topical antibiotic to kill the bacteria. If that doesn’t work, then he may prescribe oral antibiotics.

2. Take over-the-counter pain relievers

The pain caused by ingrown toenails can get quite severe. Still, we find that over-the-counter pain relievers like aspirin and ibuprofen have enough strength to lessen the discomfort considerably.

If you have so much pain that you cannot walk, take a pain reliever to see how your ingrown toenail reacts. You may still feel some discomfort, but it should lessen quite a bit.

OTC pain relievers aren’t a great long-term solution, but they can make you comfortable on particularly painful days or while you wait for your appointment with Dr. Rambacher.

3. Have part of the toenail removed

Learning how to cut your toenails the right way and avoiding tight-fitting shoes usually prevents ingrown toenails in the future. Some people, however, can’t fix the problem on their own.

Unfortunately, their toenails grow in a such a way that they will eventually cause pain.

If this describes your situation, then Dr. Rambacher may want to remove a part of your toenail. After removing part of the toenail, the nail can’t grow into your skin.

Dr. Rambacher can even use laser therapy to target highly specific parts of your toenail. If necessary, he can use laser therapy to remove recurring ingrown toenails at their roots.

4. Soak the ingrown toenail in warm water or apple cider vinegar

While you wait for your appointment with Dr. Rambacher, you can get some relief from ingrown toenail pain by soaking your foot in warm water for 10 to 15 minutes. You can soak your feet up to four times a day for maximum relief.

The warm water will reduce swelling to reduce the pain you feel.

If you have apple cider vinegar around your house, you can soak your foot in it for relief. Apple cider vinegar will kill some of the bacteria in your ingrown toenail and reduce inflammation.

For the best result, fill a basin with warm water and add a quarter cup of apple cider vinegar.

Schedule an appointment with Dr. Rambacher It’s a good idea to schedule an appointment with Dr. Rambacher as soon as you notice the symptoms of an ingrown toenail. The small pain that you feel today can turn into excruciating pain by tomorrow. The sooner you come to our office, the sooner you can rid yourself of this painful problem.

You can schedule an appointment with Dr. Rambacher by sending us a message through our secure website. If you prefer using your phone, dial 949-916-0077 to talk to someone in our Mission Viejo office.

We’re open Monday, Tuesday, Thursday, and Friday from 9am to 5pm We stay open until 7pm on Wednesday for your convenience. Book your appointment now so Dr. Rambacher can diagnose your ingrown toenail and decide what treatment option will work best for you.

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This article was co-authored by Mark Co, DPM. Dr. Mark Co is a Podiatrist who runs his own private practice in San Francisco, California. Dr. Co specializes in treatments for bunions, ingrown toenails, toenail fungus, warts, plantar fasciitis and other causes of foot pain. He also offers custom orthotics for the treatment and prevention of foot and ankle issues. Dr. Co completed a Master of Business Administration (MBA) at New York University and an MA in Electrical Engineering and Computer Science at Johns Hopkins University. Dr. Co also completed his DPM at the California School of Podiatric Medicine and a residency and internship at the Kaiser Permanente Medical Center, Santa Clara, California. Dr. Co was awarded San Francisco’s “Top 3 Podiatrists” in 2018, 2019, and 2020. Dr. Co is also a member of the CPMA (American Podiatric Medical Association).

There are 8 references cited in this article, which can be found at the bottom of the page.

wikiHow marks an article as reader-approved once it receives enough positive feedback. In this case, 100% of readers who voted found the article helpful, earning it our reader-approved status.

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An ingrown toenail (onychocryptosis) is usually caused by trimming your toenails too short, although some people are more predisposed due to heredity factors (such as having heavily curved nail beds) or lifestyle choices such as wearing narrow-toed high heels too often. Ingrown toenails cause pain and inflammation because the corner or side of the nail grows into the soft flesh of your toes, typically the big toe. According to podiatrist Mark Co, “You can often manage and resolve an ingrown toenail at home, partly by soaking it in warm water, but sometimes podiatric intervention is needed.”

The medical term for this painful condition is onychocryptosis. It develops, usually on the big toe, when a corner of the toenail curves down and digs into the skin. The symptoms may include soreness, swelling, redness, and warmth. If the toenail breaks the skin, bacteria may enter and cause an infection. Eventually, skin may start to grow over the ingrown part of the nail.

You can do several things at home to treat an ingrown toenail. However, if you suspect an infection, or if you have diabetes, circulation problems, or numbness in the toes, skip the home remedies and see your clinician or a foot specialist immediately.

Preventing ingrown toenails

How to soak an ingrown toenail

  • Wear low-heeled shoes that provide enough room at the toes, with stockings or moisture-wicking socks that allow your toes to move freely.
  • Keep your feet clean and dry.
  • Use a toenail clipper (not a fingernail clipper). If your toenails are especially thick, try a spring-handled tool called a toenail nipper.
  • Cut your toenails across, going with the curve of the toe (see illustration); don’t round the corners down as you might a fingernail (see inset). And don’t cut toenails too short. You should be able to get your fingernail under the end of the toenail.

What causes an ingrown toenail?

There are many possible causes. One is trauma; for example, you stub the toe or drop something on it, or someone steps on it. Loss of the toenail, repetitive pressure from certain sports, a fungal infection, or psoriasis may be to blame. Thick or curved toenails (nails tend to curve more with age) are particularly susceptible, and some people have an inherited tendency to develop nail problems. Improper nail trimming — cutting the nail too short at the corners — may be implicated.

The risk of ingrown toenails is raised by wearing shoes that are too tight, too narrow, or too short. According to Dr. James Ioli, Chief of Podiatry at Boston’s Brigham and Women’s Hospital, women’s high heels are a common source of trouble: “Increased heel height transfers most of your body weight toward the front of the foot. The big toes are subjected to a lot of pressure and deforming forces over the years as a result of high heels, especially if you wear them consistently for a long period of time. Even if you don’t have a problem now, you may eventually develop one.”

Home care: Keep it simple

If your symptoms are minor (the toe is irritated and red but not infected or very painful) and you don’t have a complicating medical condition such as diabetes, you can start at home with conservative measures.

Soak the foot in lukewarm water two or three times a day for 15 minutes (count a shower as a soak). You can add Epsom salts if you wish, although there’s no scientific evidence that this will improve pain relief or healing. Massage the skin at the side of the toenail (the nail fold), gently pushing it away from the nail. After each soak, dry your foot thoroughly. Wear sandals or other low-heeled open-toed shoes whenever possible. When you wear close-toed shoes, make sure the toe box (the front of the shoe) allows room for the toes to move freely. When the toenail grows out, cut it across in a line that mimics the curving line of the toe tip; do not round the corners down.

In-office procedures

If the toenail becomes infected or isn’t better after three to five days of conservative care, you should see a podiatrist or other foot care specialist or a dermatologist. You may need to take oral antibiotics for an infection, and the clinician may need to remove the ingrown part of the nail.

If you have recurrent ingrown toenails, more extensive nail removal may be needed. In a commonly performed procedure called a partial nail avulsion, a narrow vertical strip of nail on the affected side (see illustration above) is cut, from the nail edge to the base of the nail, and removed. The clinician may also apply a chemical called phenol to the nail matrix (the area beneath the cuticle that produces nail-creating cells) to prevent nail regrowth. This can leave the toenail slightly narrower than it was previously. This procedure is usually performed in a clinician’s office after a local anesthetic is injected into the toe.

Ingrown toenail: Surgical treatment

How to soak an ingrown toenail

An ingrown toenail occurs when the toenail digs into the skin, causing inflammation and sometimes infection. Treatment may require cutting away a narrow strip of nail from the nail edge to the base of the nail and treating the matrix to prevent nail regrowth.

After one of these procedures, the exposed nail bed is treated with an antibiotic ointment and covered with a nonadherent dressing. (Bring an open-toed shoe or slipper to wear home from your clinician’s office.) Most people return to normal activities (wearing an open-toed shoe) within a day or two. Consult your clinician about when you can return to vigorous exercise, such as jogging or aerobics.

Disclaimer:

As a service to our readers, Harvard Health Publishing provides access to our library of archived content. Please note the date of last review or update on all articles. No content on this site, regardless of date, should ever be used as a substitute for direct medical advice from your doctor or other qualified clinician.

You usually get an ingrown toenail on your big toe. But you can get them on any toe.

Your toe may be red, painful and swollen.

Your toe can also get infected.

Signs of an infected toe include:

  • pus coming out of it
  • you feel hot or shivery

How to treat an ingrown toenail at home

If you go to a GP with an ingrown toenail, they’ll usually suggest you try these things first.

soak your foot in warm, salty water to help soften the skin around your toe and reduce the chances of infection

keep your foot dry for the rest of the day

wear wide, comfortable shoes or sandals

take paracetamol or ibuprofen to ease the pain

do not cut your toenail – leave it to grow out

do not pick at your toe or toenail

do not wear tight, pointy shoes

A pharmacist can help with an ingrown toenail

You can ask a pharmacist about:

  • treatments to help ease the pain and prevent an infection
  • whether you need to see a GP

Non-urgent advice: See a GP if:

  • treating your ingrown toenail at home is not helping
  • your toe is painful and swollen with pus coming out of it
  • you have a very high temperature or you feel hot or shivery
  • you have diabetes and an ingrown toenail – foot problems can be more serious if you have diabetes

Coronavirus (COVID-19) update: how to contact a GP

It's still important to get help from a GP if you need it. To contact your GP surgery:

  • visit their website
  • use the NHS App
  • call them

Treatments for an ingrown toenail

  • check your toe to see if it’s an ingrown toenail
  • give you antibiotics if your toenail is infected

If you have a badly ingrown toenail, they may refer you to a foot specialist (podiatrist).

Treatment from a foot specialist

A podiatrist may offer further treatments, such as:

  • cutting away part of the nail
  • removing the whole nail

You’ll have an injection of local anaesthetic to numb your toe when this is done.

Referral to a podiatrist on the NHS may not be available to everyone and waiting times can be long. You can pay to see a podiatrist privately.

How to prevent ingrown toenails

To help stop ingrown toenails:

  • do not cut your toenails too short
  • cut straight across the nail, not the edges
  • do not wear shoes that are too tight or do not fit properly
  • keep your feet clean and dry them thoroughly

Page last reviewed: 24 January 2022
Next review due: 24 January 2025

An ingrown toenail is a foot condition that develops when the corner of the toenail grows down into the skin. It usually affects the big toe. Ingrown toenails often happen when people cut their toenails by tapering the corner of their toenail. If the toenail curves with the shape of the toe, it can grow into your skin. Ingrown toenails are common and don’t usually pose a health risk to healthy people.

Who is likely to have an ingrown toenail?

Anyone can get an ingrown toenail. People at higher risk include adolescents, athletes and those who have:

    .
  • Severe nerve damage in the leg or foot.
  • Poor blood circulation.
  • An infection around the nail.

How common are ingrown toenails?

Ingrown toenails are a common foot condition. Two out of 10 people who see their healthcare provider for a foot problem have an ingrown toenail.

Symptoms and Causes

What causes an ingrown toenail?

An ingrown toenail can have many causes:

  • Incorrectly cut toenails. If you cut your toenails too short or rounded, the nail may grow into the skin.
  • Improperly fitting shoes.
  • Tearing the corner of the nail.
  • Toe trauma, such as banging your toe or getting stepped on.
  • Congenital (your foot shape) — for instance, if your nail is larger comparatively with your toe, or the surrounding tissue of the nail border naturally grows around your nail.
  • What are the signs and symptoms of an infected ingrown toenail?

At first, an ingrown toenail can feel hard and swollen. If the nail grows into the skin, or the skin grows over the nail edge, bacteria can enter. The nail may become infected. Signs of ingrown toenail infection include:

  • Liquid or pus coming out of the toe.
  • Pain.
  • Redness or darkening of the area.
  • Swelling.
  • Toe feeling warm or hot.

Diagnosis and Tests

How is an ingrown toenail diagnosed?

You can often diagnose an ingrown toenail yourself, based on your symptoms and how the toe looks.

Your healthcare provider (which may be your regular provider or a foot specialist called a podiatrist) will likely diagnose an ingrown toenail by inspecting it. They’ll examine the skin at the edge of the nail. They will diagnose an ingrown toenail if the skin is:

  • Growing over the nail.
  • Swollen, tender, warm and red.

What tests might I have for an ingrown toenail?

You typically don’t need any tests or X-rays to diagnose an ingrown toenail. In rare cases, when the toenail is severely infected, your healthcare provider might take a sample culture to identify the infection. X-ray may also be required in more serious infections.

Management and Treatment

How is an ingrown toenail treated?

You can treat an ingrown toenail at home. These steps help control the infection and prevent further pain:

  • Soak the foot in warm water and Epsom salts twice daily.
  • Keep the foot dry the rest of the time.
  • Gently lift the edge of the nail and place some cotton or dental floss between the nail and the skin. Change the pad every day.
  • Use an antibiotic cream and a bandage.
  • Wear roomy shoes or sandals.
  • Use pain relievers such as ibuprofen or acetaminophen, if needed.

Can I cut the ingrown nail myself?

If you have an ingrown toenail, do not attempt to cut it yourself. If you cut the nail, the condition may get worse. If symptoms aren’t getting better with at-home remedies, see a healthcare provider.

Do I need a healthcare provider to treat an ingrown toenail?

If your symptoms haven’t improved within a few days, or the nail looks worse, call your healthcare provider.

You should also see your provider as soon as possible if you develop an ingrown toenail and you have:

    .
  • Severe nerve damage.
  • Poor blood circulation.
  • An infection.

Does an ingrown toenail require surgery?

Most of the time, an ingrown toenail heals without surgery. In severe cases, your healthcare provider may need to remove part of the nail surgically. The procedure is called a nail avulsion. Surgery keeps the edge of the nail from growing inward and cutting into the skin. For children who keep getting infected ingrown toenails, permanently removing the nail can help.

During a partial or complete nail avulsion, your provider injects an anesthetic (numbing medicine) in your toe. Then the provider cuts away part or all of the toenail. It can take a few months for the nail to regrow. For recurrent ingrown nails these avulsion procedures can be done permanently with the assistance of a chemical to kill the nail root.

Prevention

How can I prevent an ingrown toenail?

You can take these steps to prevent an ingrown toenail:

  • Soak the nail in warm water before cutting, or cut nails after a shower or bath.
  • Clean your nail trimmer before using it.
  • Do not tear or rip nails.
  • Trim toenails across the top. Don’t round the corners.
  • Wear shoes that fit correctly. They should not be too loose or tight around the toes.
  • Avoid repetitive trauma to the sides of the nails.
  • If you have diabetes, follow all foot care recommendations from your healthcare provider. With diabetes, do NOT be hesitant about seeking medical help.

Outlook / Prognosis

What is the outlook for someone with an ingrown toenail?

Most of the time, an ingrown toenail is not a serious health problem. Ingrown toenail treatment usually works. The ingrown toenail won’t grow back if you practice good foot care.

You may need regular foot care exams if you have a condition that causes foot problems, such as nerve damage or diabetes.

Living With

When should I see my healthcare provider about an ingrown toenail?

See your healthcare provider for an ingrown toenail if you have:

  • Diabetes.
  • Signs of an infection (pus or liquid drainage, extreme pain or redness).
  • Poor circulation.
  • Tried topical antibiotic ointment, soaking and self-care but the toe still hurts.

What should I ask my healthcare provider?

If you have an ingrown toenail, ask your provider:

  • Is the nail infected?
  • How can I best treat it?
  • Do I need surgery?
  • How can I keep it from coming back?
  • Do I need medication?
  • How should I cut my nails to avoid ingrown toenails?

A note from Cleveland Clinic

An ingrown toenail is annoying and painful but very treatable. Often, soaking the nail will improve symptoms within a few days. If it doesn’t get better, see your healthcare provider who can treat it. Don’t attempt to cut the ingrown nail yourself at home. In the future, to prevent ingrown toenails, wear roomy shoes and cut your nails straight across, rather than tapering them to the shape of your toe.

Last reviewed by a Cleveland Clinic medical professional on 10/19/2020.

References

  • American Academy of Foot and Ankle Surgeons. Ingrown Toenail. (https://www.foothealthfacts.org/conditions/ingrown-toenail) Accessed 10/19/2020.
  • American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons. Ingrown Toenail. (https://orthoinfo.aaos.org/en/diseases–conditions/ingrown-toenail) Accessed 10/19/2020.
  • NHS. Ingrown Toenail. (https://www.nhs.uk/conditions/ingrown-toenail/) Accessed 10/19/2020.

Cleveland Clinic is a non-profit academic medical center. Advertising on our site helps support our mission. We do not endorse non-Cleveland Clinic products or services. Policy

How to soak an ingrown toenail

An ingrown toenail, with the side edge of your nail growing into the skin, can make you painfully aware of a toe you don’t normally notice.

Cleveland Clinic is a non-profit academic medical center. Advertising on our site helps support our mission. We do not endorse non-Cleveland Clinic products or services. Policy

As the nail continues to dig into the skin, it irritates it, causing pain.

“If an ingrown toenail causes a break in the skin, bacteria can enter and cause an infection, which will make it even more painful. A red, swollen, hot and very painful ingrown toenail is probably infected,” says podiatrist Georgeanne Botek, DPM.

Causes of ingrown toenails

Dr. Botek shares the most common causes of painful ingrown toenails:

Heredity. Many people inherit the tendency to develop ingrown toenails from one or both parents.

Ill-fitting footwear. Crowding your feet into socks and shoes that are too short or tight can set up an environment for painful ingrown toenails to develop. This is why adolescents and teens often get ingrown toenails. “Due to sudden growth spurts and body changes, teens and adolescents may outgrow their footwear quickly and can end up wearing them a while before buying better-fitting shoes,” Dr. Botek says.

Trauma. Occasionally, stubbing or jamming your toe, dropping something on your toe or participating in activities that put repeated pressure on your toes (like running, soccer or ballet) can cause ingrown toenails to develop.

Improper trimming. One of the most common causes of ingrown toenails is cutting them too short. When nails are very short, it encourages the skin at the sides of the nail to fold over it. Don’t be overzealous with the clippers and be sure to cut straight across.

Pedicures. Many women (and increasing numbers of men) enjoy getting pedicures. Nothing wrong with that, but make sure to go to an experienced technician. “Pedicures can cause ingrown nails if the nail technician is overly aggressive in cutting back a toenail,” says podiatrist Dina Stock, DPM.

Poor Circulation. Adults with decreased arterial circulation are more susceptible to ingrowing toenails. If you have diabetes, heart disease, or a long history of tobacco abuse and suffer with repeated ingrown toenails, see your physician or foot and ankle doctor. Also, swelling in your feet and

How to treat ingrown toenails

Sometimes, you can treat your ingrown toenails at home. If your ingrown toenail doesn’t show any of the signs of infection — swelling, hot to the touch, oozing, foul odor — you might just try letting the nail grow out.

Soak it and wait. Dr. Stock suggests soaks in warm water with Epsom salt or a mild detergent, then applying an antibiotic ointment and bandage to the area.

Remove it yourself if there’s no infection. “First soak your feet in a very warm bath with Epsom salt. This softens the skin and reduces inflammation. Using clean nail-cutting tools, you can try to clip the affected area and apply antibiotic ointment afterward,” says Dr. Botek.

See a podiatrist. For an infected ingrown toenail, or if you aren’t sure you can deal with treating yours at home, a podiatrist can perform the procedure under a local anesthetic. “In the office, we can cut out the offending nail border after first numbing the area,” Dr. Stock says. This helps the pain and allows the infection to heal, but may not prevent recurring ingrown toenails.

Never ignore an infected ingrown nail. A prolonged infection can spread and lead to serious complications, especially if you suffer from poor blood flow, an impaired immune system or neuropathy of diabetes (previously referred to as diabetic neuropathy).

Recurring ingrown toenails

For frequent ingrown nails, your doctor may suggest a common office procedure called the phenol and alcohol matrixectomy.

“During a matrixectomy, the doctor numbs the region and removes the problematic nail portion. The chemical phenol is then applied to burn and kill the cells that form the nail,” Dr. Botek says. This offers a more permanent solution to recurring ingrown nails.

Preventing ingrown toenails

Of course, it’s best to prevent getting ingrown nails in the first place. Experts Dr. Stock and Dr. Botek offer these suggestions:

  • Avoid cutting nails too short and cutting unevenly at the corners. Cut straight across.
  • Make sure your socks and shoes fit properly. You should be able to wiggle your toes easily in your shoes.
  • Avoid trauma to the toe area. If you run, play soccer or participate in other sports where your toes get a lot of action, try to go barefoot for an hour or two afterward.

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How to soak an ingrown toenail

Whether you’ve groomed your feet a little too aggressively (more on that later) or you’re a runner who’s parted with a toenail, ingrowns are a common if unsightly issue. They’re fairly easy to fix too, says Jane Andersen, DPM, a podiatrist at Chapel Hill Foot and Ankle Associates in North Carolina. The two exceptions: If you have diabetes or vascular disease, see your doctor immediately instead of going the DIY route, as ingrown toenails can become much bigger issues for people with those conditions. Otherwise, here’s your at-home solution:

Step 1 – Take a Soak
Fill up your tub or a large bowl with warm water, and add 1 Tbsp. of Epsom salts for every quart of water. (Andersen prefers Epsom, but says you can use table salt in a pinch.) “Soak your foot for 20 minutes twice a day,” she says. “It’ll draw out any fluid that might be under the nail, and Epsom salts are really soothing if you’re dealing with an infection.”

Step 2 – Massage It
Your skin will be pretty pliable after a good soak, so now’s the time to “gently use your fingers to massage the skin back away from the nail, so the nail has room to grow over the skin,” says Andersen.

Step 3 – Do the Thing You Thought You Weren’t Supposed to Do
You’re going to stick something underneath your nail. Take a really small piece of cotton, ball it up so that’s it’s firm and put it beneath the part of your nail that’s growing into the skin. “Leave a little tail so you can easily take it out when you need to change it,” says Andersen. “The idea is to lift the nail so it can grow up and over the skin instead of getting caught under it.” Change the cotton every couple of days, or after each soak, if you prefer. Once you’ve placed the cotton, apply an antibiotic ointment if you think the nail is infected (you’d notice redness, swelling and warmth) and top it with a bandage.

What to Do If Your Nail Isn’t Getting Better
If you’re not seeing signs of improvement within a week, or it’s actually getting worse, see a podiatrist. There’s a very simple in-office procedure they can do to take care of the ingrown, says Andersen, which involves numbing the toe and removing a sliver of the nail itself. They’ll also know how to handle infections, which can be serious if left untreated, potentially spreading to the bone. (More reason not to let the problem drag on and on.)

How to Not Get One Ever Again
The best way to avoid ingrowns is to get your clipping technique right. You want to cut straight across, says Andersen, and gently smooth out the corners so they’re not sharp enough to pierce your skin. “If you cut the corners back too far, the skin grows over the edge and the nail can’t grow out,” she says. When you lose entire toenails (whether it’s because you’re wearing too-small shoes, you’re a runner or tennis player or you just dropped something heavy on your toe), it’s more likely to grow back funky, says Andersen, so be sure to massage the skin back as the nail grows in to give it space. Finally, anything that could thicken your nail, like a fungal infection, could lead to an ingrown, so if you’ve got fungus brewing, take care of it ASAP.

  • How to soak an ingrown toenail

Best Remedies for Ingrown Toenails

How to soak an ingrown toenail

When not attended to, a minuscule, annoying problem can quickly turn into a persistent medical issue that requires attention. An ingrown toenail can happen to just about anyone, no matter what your habits are—whether you’re an elite athlete or if you simply work long hours during the day on your feet.

Especially with the way your toenails grow, you are susceptible to getting an ingrown toenail—which is when the edge or the point of your toenail will curve unnaturally—piercing through and growing directly into the skin.

An ingrown toenail can be caused by a ton of different things—and can lead to multiple types of symptoms, from redness to swelling to pain.The toe that is most likely to get affected is the big toenail.

In this article, we’re going to go through not only the causes of why you may have an ingrown toenail but also possible remedies for ingrown toenails (whether at-home or through your doctor) that can help any symptoms of an ingrown toenail.

Common Causes

The ingrown toenail, called onychocryptus, normally happens when the skin will go over the bed of the toenail.

Once the hard part of your nail breaks through and penetrates your skin, this can lead to infections and an invasion in bacteria. This can results in various health issues, as well.

Although the direct cause of your ingrown toenail is not limited to those listed below, these are some common causes that might have lead to the pain or discomfort that you’re experiencing at the moment:

  • If you’ve hit your toenail by stubbing your toe or getting it kicked
  • If you’re constantly wearing too-tight or too-small shoes
  • If you’ve cut your toenails too short or at an angle and they‘re now growing abnormally

Although catching an ingrown toenail early can be quite simple and painless to resolve and treat, leaving an ingrown nail unattended to may even lead to a necessary surgery or medical intervention. Some other causes of ingrown toenails also include poor foot hygiene. Patients who have diabetes or nerve damage from the result of circulatory diseases can be much more susceptible to ingrown toenails—and can be potentially dangerous because of the reduction in blood flow, which slows down the healing process.

At-Home Remedies for Ingrown Toenails

Before you head to the doctor and add some expenses to your medical bills, you might want to try some at-home remedies for ingrown toenails:

Soak your feet in warm water or apple cider vinegar.

The apple cider vinegar has antiseptic, anti-inflammatory, and pain-relieving properties that have been proven scientifically to work. If you choose to try to soak your feet, make sure that you dry your feet thoroughly afterward to make sure that the infection is cleaned and can heal properly.

Take over-the-counter helpers.

As for pain relievers, any OTC medication will do—from Ibuprofen to Advil.

Check your footwear.

Especially if your infection is healing, it’s important to try and keep your feet (especially you‘re infected toenail) as dry as possible. This can speed up the healing process. This tip can also be quite helpful when you‘re trying to prevent another ingrown toenail from happening in the future.

Medical Treatment which are alternatives to the Remedies for Ingrown Toenails

If any of the home remedies listed above are not as effective as you’ve hoped, your doctor may recommend some of these medically-administered treatment options:

  1. Lifting the nail and placing dental floss, a splint or cotton underneath. This helps keep the separation and encourages the nail to grow over the skin and not through it.
  1. Removing the nail partially, in a professional setting, can be effective to help with pain, pus, and redness. Your doctor might have to temporarily numb your toe before administering the procedure.
  1. Fully removing the nail, which may mean that you have to undergo a minor medical surgery.

Before engaging in any practices that may either hurt your toenail even more or hinder its healing, here are some “don’ts” to stay away from:

  • Don’t wear closed-toe shoes and tight socks to pad over the pain or infection. Letting your toe and toenail breathe while being medically treated can help speed up the healing process as well as prevent any type of infection.
  • Don’t try your own bathroom surgery if you have no medical background. Especially if you’re experiencing symptoms like discharge, pus, or infection, this can be particularly harmful. If you do want to try a home remedy to ease the pain, try OTC medication, ointment or a warm-water bath. This can help reduce infection.
  • Don’t cut your nails too short, which can increase the exposed skin

We hope that this guide has helped you either recognized the signs of an ingrown toenail and presented you with the options you have (whether at home or in a professional setting) to treat your ingrown toenail. When in doubt, make an appointment with your local podiatrist to have an assessment on your ingrown toenail.