How To Treat Ingrown Toenails: A Helpful Guide

how to treat ingrown toenails

Ingrown toenails are uncomfortable, unsightly, and can become infected if not treated properly. Keep reading to learn more about ingrown toenail treatment and what to expect.

An ingrown toenail is where the corners of one toenail grow outwards rather than up, cutting into the skin around the nail and embedding within it. Luckily, it’s possible to treat ingrown toenails at your local doctor with an outpatient appointment, here’s everything you need to know.

Treating Ingrown Toenails at Home

Ingrown toenails should not be cut or picked at, as this can prevent the nail from growing out as it should. Instead, ingrown toenails can sometimes fix themselves if you simply wait for the nails to grow out.

In the meantime, you can soak your feet in warm salty water to soften the skin and keep the toes clean, as this will prevent an infection. If you’re treating the condition at home, be sure to keep your feet dry after soaking and wear wide, comfortable shoes. Open-toed sandals are best to prevent the shoes from bumping the ingrown nail. If you’re in pain, over-the-counter painkillers will prevent it from hurting too much. 


Treating Ingrown Toenails with the Help of a Professional

Some ingrown toenails don’t respond as they should to home methods, so you might want to talk to your doctor about getting professional treatment. There are a number of things a healthcare professional can do to help your toenail. 

#1 – Lifting the Nail

For a nail that’s only slightly ingrown, a doctor might lift the nail carefully away from the skin to alleviate the pain. They will then fit a thin piece of cotton floss underneath the nail to separate it from the skin, as this will prevent the nail from re-embedding itself into the toe. 

The cotton floss will be left here for between 2 to 12 weeks until the nail has successfully grown over the skin. You’ll need to replace this material every day at home while keeping it clean and dry. 

#2 – Partially Removing the Nail

Some more severe ingrown toenails will need to be cut out of the skin, which involves slicing away a portion of the nail. The toe will be numbed before the nail is trimmed to remove the ingrown part of the nail. The nail will need to be carefully cared for to prevent infection, but the relief after this treatment will be instant. The toenail should grow back if you’re being treated with this method, although it will take between two and four months to regrow. 

#3 – Removing the Nail and Tissue

For people who repeatedly suffer from ingrown toenails, your healthcare professional might offer a full or partial removal of the nail and tissue. While only removing one part of the nail allows it to grow back, the removal of the tissue beneath the nail stops it from growing back. So, this treatment will permanently alter the appearance of your nail. 

The toe will be numbed beforehand, so you won’t feel a thing while your doctor uses a chemical or laser to remove the nail. Looking after the nail once it’s been removed can take weeks or months, so you’ll need to be vigilant with redressing and looking after the wound. 

#4 – Taping the Nail

Some doctors prefer to lift the nail away from the skin, effectively removing it from within the skin, before taping the skin to prevent the nail from re-embedding itself as it grows. This pulls the skin back and is particularly helpful if you have raised skin around the nail. The tape can be kept on until the nail has successfully grown out. 

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How to Prevent Ingrown Toenails

The best way to prevent an ingrown toenail is by keeping your nails trimmed at a moderate length. Nails that are too short have a higher chance of becoming ingrown, and nails that are too long can promote a number of other health issues surrounding your feet.

When trimming your toenails, always cut them straight across rather than rounding the edges. This prevents the nail from growing outwards which can encourage them to embed within the nail. 

Make sure your shoes aren’t too tight so they’re not putting pressure on your toes, as this can cause the nail to grow inwards, too. Use wide-soled shoes whenever possible and make sure your toes have plenty of space to breathe while you’re walking. 

Keep an eye on your feet to make sure they look healthy and the nails look straight. Ingrown nails can appear quickly, so make sure you’re looking after your toes at all times.

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