How to fix ingrown toenails: The full guide by Arizona Foot Doctors

Ingrown toenails can affect anyone. If left untreated, ingrown toenails can become inflamed and infected, causing pain, discoloration — and stress! Learn about the signs of ingrown nails, what causes ingrown toenails, preventative tips, and the best remedies to fix ingrown toenails in Arizona Foot Doctors’ full guide below.

Do you think you’re suffering from an ingrown toenail? Find relief and treat your feet with podiatrists at Arizona Foot Doctors in Scottsdale, AZ. Book an appointment today.

What are symptoms of ingrown nails?

To avoid discomfort, you’ll want to learn how to recognize the symptoms of an ingrown toenail before it becomes infected.

  • It’s common for the top of your toe to become swollen when you have an ingrown toenail. Any toenail can become infected, but the big toes are usually the ones most affected.
  • Besides a swollen area around the toenail, the area can also be red and painful. The pain can occur when you press the edge of the toenail or when you squeeze the affected area.
  • In addition to the redness and swelling, you may experience oozing pus in more severe cases.
  • With the infected toenail, it might be painful or difficult to put on shoes or socks.

What causes ingrown toenails?

There are several common causes of ingrown toenails. Some of these factors include:

  • Tightly fitting shoes or high heels. When shoes don’t fit properly, they can compress your toes. This applied pressure can cause an ingrown toenail infection.
  • Clipping your toenails. Improperly trimming your toenails can also lead to an infection. Make sure to cut the nail straight across and not at an angle. If you cut at an angle or cut the nail too short, the nail may grow into the skin, causing irritation and infection.
  • Genetics. Some people are prone to ingrown toenails simply because of their genetic makeup. The toenail may naturally curve downward into the skin, causing toenails to become ingrown or infected.

Who can get ingrown toenails?

Adults, teens, and children alike can suffer from ingrown toenails. Even infants can have infected toenails. In addition to the symptoms and causes above, pediatric ingrown toenail symptoms can include nail overgrowth or a bad odor.

With nail overgrowth, the skin around the nail grows faster than the nail itself. This can cause redness and irritation for your little one’s feet. You may also notice a bad odor if bacteria gets underneath the nail bed and causes an infection to form.

Doctor treating an ingrown toenail on male patient

Ingrown toenails during the pandemic

The rate of ingrown toenails may have increased during the 2020 COVID-19 pandemic. Why?

  • Many people couldn’t get to the nail salon to maintain their foot care and hygiene. Because of this, some people may have incorrectly cut their nails, causing them to become ingrown or infected.
  • A lot of people have reportedly stubbed their toes while working from home during the pandemic (mostly while not wearing shoes). Believe it or not, stubbing a toe can also create enough pressure and discomfort to cause ingrown toenails.

Essentially, injuries and tight shoes aren’t the only causes of ingrown toenails. Many types of compression or improper foot care techniques can negatively affect your toenails.

Prevention tips

You can use these at-home tips and tricks to avoid ingrown toenails. For more preventative tips, visit a podiatrist near you.

  • Trim toenails straight across. Don’t curve your nails to match the natural shape of your toes.
  • Don’t trim your toenails too short. Cutting your toenails too short can cause the nail to start growing into the skin tissue.
  • Wear properly fitted shoes. Shoes that fit properly will be on the looser side — they won’t be too tight and cause any pressure on your toes.

Treatment options

There are a variety of treatment options for ingrown toenails. One thing to note is that it’s wise to avoid getting a pedicure with an ingrown toenail. Getting a pedicure can actually do more harm than good — it can cause the infection to get worse and develop foot ulcers and blood flow issues. The best treatment options are determined by a podiatrist, but you may want to try an at-home remedy before taking a trip to the doctor.

Home remedies for ingrown toenails

  • Regularly trimming your toenails to a moderate length by using clean nail trimming tools
  • Regularly cleaning your toenails from debris
  • Avoiding improperly fitted shoes (Shoes should not feel too tight or apply pressure to the toes.)
  • Soaking the affected toenail in an Epsom salt bath and applying an over-the-counter antibiotic
  • Soaking the affected toenail in apple cider vinegar or soapy warm water
  • Taking Ibuprofen to reduce swelling

Podiatric treatment for ingrown nails

Depending on the severity of the ingrown toenail, it may be necessary to visit a podiatrist to get proper treatment. After examining your foot, a podiatrist will determine a treatment plan for you, sometimes including a preventative care plan. The following are noninvasive podiatric treatment methods:

  • Massaging and trimming the affected toenail and providing over-the-counter pain relievers. Your podiatrist may choose to treat your ingrown toenails conservatively by providing the least invasive approach to relieve pain and inflammation.

If you’re suffering from a severe infection caused by an ingrown toenail, your podiatrist may recommend the following procedures:

  • Ingrown toenail removal and tissue removal. This is often recommended when you are consistently and repeatedly suffering from ingrown toenails. This process is done with a laser or by chemical treatments to remove the nail and the nail bed to prevent the toenail from regrowing.
  • Partial toenail removal. If your infected toenail is causing severe swelling, redness, irritation, or pus, your podiatrist might recommend removing a piece of the nail. Trimming the ingrown portion off may relieve you of your symptoms. However, with this method only part of the toenail is removed, which can mean the toenail can get infected again in the future. This method makes maintaining proper foot hygiene and grooming habits a critical practice for you.
  • Lifting of the toenail. If your ingrown toenail isn’t causing severe pain, your doctor may suggest lifting the nail out of the position it’s currently sitting in. This procedure is common when you have redness and some pain but haven’t developed pus yet.

What’s the best way to get rid of an ingrown toenail?

Ultimately, you know your body best. If you’re experiencing debilitating pain and discomfort from an infected ingrown toenail, it may be time to seek professional help. Podiatrists are prepared to give you their best advice when it comes to preventative care and treatment options. At home remedies may work for less severe cases of ingrown toenails, but it’s best to contact your doctor for their expertise and recommendations.

Young Woman Clipping Ingrown Toenail

Contact Arizona Foot Doctors in Scottsdale

The podiatrists at Arizona Foot Doctors have been serving Scottsdale families for over 35 years. Dr. Steven Burns, Arizona Foot Doctors’ medical director, has experience treating and preventing ingrown toenails for patients of all ages. He believes that surgery isn’t always the best option; his conservative approach and expertise make him a trusted podiatrist in the Scottsdale area. He works with his patients to build the best treatment plans for their foot care needs.

Originally published: November 8, 2021