Treatment and Prevention
Ingrown toenails should be treated as soon as they are recognized. In many cases, people with uninfected ingrown toenails can obtain relief with the following simple regimen:
- Soak the feet in warm salt water
- Dry them thoroughly with a clean towel
- Apply a mild antiseptic solution to the area
- Bandage the toe
If excessive inflammation, swelling, pain or discharge is present, the toenail probably is infected and should be treated by a physician. A podiatrist can trim or remove the infected nail with a minor in-office surgical procedure. He or she can remove the offending portion of the nail or overgrown skin with a scalpel and treat the infection. Unless, the problem is congenital, the best way to prevent ingrown toenails is to protect the feet from trauma and wear shoes with adequate room for the toes.
Cutting toe nails properly goes a long way toward the prevention of ingrown toenails. Using a safety nail clipper, cut the nails straight across, so that the nail corner is visible. If you cut the nail too short, you are inviting the nail corner to grow into the skin. It is the natural tendency, when the edge of the nail starts to grow in, to cut down at an angle at the nail edge, to relieve the pain. This does relieve the pain temporarily, but it also can start a downward spiral, training the nail to become more and more ingrown.
If the problem persists, consult your foot doctor.
Why You Should Skip the Home Remedies
We get it.
Usually, the first thing anybody wants to know about a painful symptom or condition is, “Can I fix this thing on my own, at home?”
It’s a very normal and natural reaction. Nobody wants to go to the doctor if they don’t absolutely have to. We don’t even like to, and we’re doctors! And nobody wants expensive treatments they don’t really need.
In fact, in a lot of other circumstances we even endorse home remedies for our patients, at least as a first option. Ultimately, we want what’s going to be best for our patients. And if you can fix it simply and easily at home, what could be better?
But ingrown toenails are different.
For starters, most of the reasons that someone would ordinarily favor home care are actually more associated with professional care in this case. But there are other reasons, too.
- Home care has a relatively low overall success rate and may require days (or weeks) to work, if it works at all. Professional care offers pretty much guaranteed relief from a quick and simple procedure, and almost no down time—you’re back to normal activity within a day or two.
- The longer you have an “active” ingrown toenail, the more likely you are to develop an infection. So, fixing it as quickly as possible is high priority.
- Even when home care does work, the odds are pretty high that you’ll eventually develop another ingrown toenail in the future. (And another, and another …). Whereas we are able to perform a simple procedure that should prevent ingrown toenails from returning permanently in most cases.