Ingrown toenails can be frustrating, painful, and unsightly. Depending on the severity of the infection, your ingrown toenail may cause you trouble with everyday activities such as walking or exercising. Your toe may hurt if the infected area is irritated by wearing shoes and may appear red, swollen, or sensitive to pressure. Learn about common causes, symptoms, and treatment methods, or talk to a podiatrist at Arizona Foot Doctors to get a second opinion.
What is an ingrown toenail?
An ingrown toenail is a nail that has grown into the skin of the toe. Ingrown toenails can affect people at any age. Various factors, such as playing sports, can increase the likelihood of having an ingrown toenail. Some other common causes of ingrown toenails include:
- Poorly fitted shoes. Tightly fitted shoes can cause your toes to push together, placing pressure on the nail.
- Excessive sweating. Too much perspiration can cause the nail to become soft and penetrate the skin.
- Improperly trimming nails. Avoid trimming nails too short or at an angle. The best way to trim nails is to cut straight across above the nail bed.
- Toenail injuries. Trauma to the nail, such as stubbing a toe, may result in an ingrown toenail.
- Fungal infections. Wearing clean socks and keeping proper foot hygiene can prevent fungal infections and decrease the chance of an ingrown toenail.
- Genetic predispositions. Some people with hereditary conditions like diabetes tend to develop ingrown toenails, leaving them vulnerable to infection.
Some symptoms you might notice with an ingrown nail are redness and swelling of the area, pain when pressure is applied, a buildup of fluid, or tenderness around the sides of the toenail. You may also see the skin of the toe fold over the nail itself.
How to treat an infected ingrown toenail
You may be asking yourself, “Do ingrown toenails go away?” Sometimes they might grow out, but they usually require some treatment. In mild cases of ingrown toenails, you can treat the infected area at home by soaking the foot in warm water two to three times a day for 15 minutes. Over-the-counter NSAID medications can reduce inflammation and pain. Other home remedies include:
- Use cotton or dental floss under your toenail. After soaking your foot, put fresh pieces of cotton or waxed dental floss under the edge of the ingrown toenail. This will help the nail grow above the skin edge.
- Apply antibiotic cream. Use an antibiotic ointment on the tender part of the toe, and, if prescribed, a topical steroid may be applied to reduce inflammation.
If the ingrown toenail is infected or causing extreme pain, it’s best to seek medical attention. Your podiatrist will likely start with a foot examination before recommending a treatment plan. Some treatment options they may explore are:
- Laser therapy and antibiotic treatments
- Gentle massaging of the area
- Custom foot orthotics
- Properly fitted shoes
- In-office toenail trimming
- Lifting the nail or partially removing the nail
- Partial or full toenail removal, either chemically or by excision
How to prevent an infected ingrown toenail
One of the best ways to prevent an ingrown toenail from happening is to use clean and sharp toenail clippers. When clipping, be sure to cut your nails straight across and above the nail bed. You want to avoid clipping your nails too short or at an angle. Some additional prevention methods for ingrown toenails include:
- Wearing properly fitted shoes. Make sure your toes have enough wiggle room and be sure to wear moisture-wicking socks.
- Keep your feet dry and clean.
- Try a spring-handled tool called a toenail nipper if your toenails are thick.
- When clipping your toenails, be sure to cut along the curve of the toe; don’t round the corners down as you might a fingernail. To avoid cutting nails too short, make sure your fingernail can get underneath the end of your toenail.
- Some medications or diseases can contribute to ingrown toenails. You can speak with your physician to rule this out or learn more about how to treat your ingrown toenail..
Schedule an appointment
So, do ingrown toenails go away? The simple answer is yes; however, it may require a doctor’s visit if home remedies are ineffective. When in doubt, it’s best to seek medical attention to get a diagnosis. Schedule an appointment online with Arizona Foot Doctors to get expert advice. With our vast experience in podiatry, Arizona Foot Doctors is a practice you can trust.