Figuring out the best way to treat your ingrown toenails can be confusing. If you search for treatment options on Google, you might find dozens of different suggestions. Foot soaks. Apple cider vinegar. Cutting a “V” shaped notch in the nail. Propping up the nail with dental floss.
Do any of these treatments actually work? And if so, which ones are the best?
We’re here to help you clear up the confusion.
First Step: How Serious Is Your Ingrown Toenail?
Not all ingrown toenails are the same. Some may be relatively mild, and only a little bit sensitive when you bump the toe or put on a particular pair of shoes. Other cases can be extremely painful and highly sensitive to any pressure whatsoever.
Ingrown toenails that aren’t treated quickly enough can even get infected. If your toenails get this bad, you’ll need antibiotics to treat it. If the infection becomes extremely serious and spreads, it becomes a medical emergency that could even lead to amputation.
So the first question you need to ask yourself, before you attempt any treatment, is how serious the problem is.
If your ingrown toenail is very mild and you are otherwise healthy, you may choose to try conservative treatments at home first. A mild ingrown toenail isn’t very painful, and there are no obvious signs of redness or swelling.
If your ingrown toenail is more serious—or you just want to get rid of it as quickly as possible—you should call us and schedule an appointment. Always go straight to a podiatrist in any of the following situations:
- Pain disrupts daily living
- You have diabetes, neuropathy, or any condition that affects nerve and/or circulatory health in the feet.
- You’ve had your ingrown toenails for several days and they are not improving.
- You notice any signs of infection (redness, swelling, warm skin, discoloration, drainage, etc.)
- You have had ingrown toenails multiple times in the past.
Conservative Treatment Options
Conservative home treatments are optional for healthy individuals with mild ingrown toenails. Although this is not the “best” way to fix an ingrown toenail, some people prefer it.
Here is our recommended course of action:
- If you find that a particular pair of shoes is associated with pain, do not wear those shoes. Instead, stick to pairs with wider toe boxes, or open-toed shoes such as sandals until the pain subsides.
- Soak your feet in warm water for about 15 minutes at a time, up to 3 or 4 times per day at most. This will help reduce the swelling and sensitivity—plus it feels good. After soaking, you may attempt to gently lift the nail with a clean piece of waxed dental floss.
- Apply antibiotic cream as a precaution to minimize your chances of getting an infection.
Contrary to popular belief, cutting a V-shaped notch is not an effective countermeasure. You also should never attempt to trim or cut down the nail borders yourself, as this will only make the problem worse.